Richard Avedon: Ladies’ Man

The famed photographer’s greatest muses are united by an unprecedented exhibition

Malgosia Bela and Gisele Bundchen, 2000. Photo by Richard Avedon.

You don’t get to be a great fashion photographer without having a feel for women—not just an interest, but a deep, complicated understanding. Richard Avedon, arguably the greatest of fashion photographers, approached his female subjects—models, writers, performers, artists, and factory workers among them—with a particular sensitivity to their strength, vulnerability, beauty,and flaws. All these qualities and more will be on display in “Avedon: Women,” an extraordinary show of nearly 500 images running November 1 through December 21 at the Gagosian Gallery in Los Angeles. Alongside portraits of many of Avedon’s most famous muses are pictures that have never before been exhibited, including 300 contacts, which provide an intimate counterweight to the massive prints that open and punctuate the show. Scaled between those extremes are more than 60 pictures hung salon-style of the 20th-century woman in all her variety: Jackie Kennedy, Dorothy Parker, Tina Turner, Janis Joplin, Coco Chanel, Elsa Maxwell, and Jean Shrimpton. Other iconic personalities, from Elizabeth Taylor to Kate Moss, make cameo appearances in a room devoted to Avedon’s rarely seen color work, featured here in the form of glowing transparencies lit from behind. For a photographer who was famously in control, Avedon understood that his best pictures happened when he allowed his subjects to express themselves. They leap, they shout, they laugh, and sometimes they simply gaze with an intensity that’s just as mesmerizing and moving now as it must have been the moment Avedon clicked the shutter.

Photos: Richard Avedon: Ladies’ Man

Elsa Maxwell, columnist, New York, December 11, 1957. Photograph by Richard Avedon, © The Richard Avedon Foundation.

Jean Shrimpton, dress by Oscar De La Renta, January 9, 1968. Photograph by Richard Avedon, © The Richard Avedon Foundation.

Małgosia Bela and Gisele Bündchen, dresses by Dior, New York, March 13, 2000. Photograph by Richard Avedon, © The Richard Avedon Foundation.

Volpi Ball #4, Jacqueline Delubac, Venice, Italy, August 31, 1991. Photograph by Richard Avedon, © The Richard Avedon Foundation.