In 1944 he started working as an advertising photographer for a store. After a while, he was discovered by Alexey Brodovitch, the artistic director for the fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar, where he started working and soon became its main photographer. In just two years he had his own studio and was shooting for magazines like Vogue and Life.
Avedon innovated, going beyond the common style of fashion photography. His models were filled with emotion, smiling and, many times were in movement. In 1966 he started working for Vogue, where he photographed many of the covers from 1973 to 1988. The shift occurred because Avedon thought that Harper’s Bazaar had somewhat stagnated, and because he wanted to advance his personal work. Besides his work in fashion, Avedon started experimenting in other personal projects: psychiatric hospital patients, protests against the Vietnam War, and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
He was always very interested in the way a portrait captures the personality and soul of a subject. He photographed many famous people with his large format camera (Jean Genet, Marcel Duchamp, Giacometti, Picasso, Chagall, Dali, Bob Dylan, Brigitte Bardot, Jacques Cousteau, Andy Warhol, Elisabeth Taylor, Janis Joplin, Maria Calas, Charles Chaplin, Hitchcock, and Marilyn Monroe). The portraits stand out by their minimalist style, with the subject looking directly into the camera, in front of a white background. Avedon didn’t care for props or other elements that ‘disturbed’ the portrait. It was just him, the model, and the connection that was established between them. The white background contributed to that intimacy. And he always maintained control of the session, even when the model’s personality was very strong.
His portraits of miners, cowboys, and other characters of the American West were published in the book “In the American West” (1985), and is considered a landmark in portraiture of the XX Century. Avedon thought of that as his best work. After being gravely ill, he dedicated himself to photograph a part of America he had never captured. That was the origin of this book.
In 1992, Avedon became the first photographer on the payroll of magazine “the New Yorker”.
He won several photography prizes: International Center of Photography Master of Photography Award (1993), Prix Nadar (1994), and Royal Photographic Society 150th Anniversary Medal (2003).
Of his many exhibitions, some were at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of Art (NY), Museu Guggenheim (Bilbau), and Museum of Fine Arts (Boston).
He died in 2004.
“And if a day goes by without my doing something related to photography, it’s as though I’ve neglected something essential to my existence, as though I had forgotten to wake up. I know that the accident of my being a photographer has made my life possible.”