Although I would like to, I cannot deny that Richard Avedon’s photographs are brilliant and often beautiful. Where I might disregard most fashion photography on the ground that it is shallow, and compensates for its general lack of mystery and insight with a theatricality that is silly at best and obscene at worst, Avedon is masterly at avoiding the pitfalls of this genre. At least this was so until the onset of the 1960s, when his work changed substantially. The pictures he made in cafes, parks, casinos, restaurants and limousines, before he retreated to the studio, are filled with a very sophisticated kind of irony, with self-mockery that is balanced so well against their hauteur that, while one knows Avedon must be a man who thinks, one cannot find any shred of belief.
In these pictures, which may be the richest of his career, the world depicted is patently artificial. The women who
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