In his monumental career, Avedon photographed everybody who was anybody, and many people who where nobody and treated them all the same. In the end, Avedon was simply the most important photographer of the 20th century. His work is awe inspiring and I can look at it for days. Back in the 1985 when his book “In The American West” came out, and I was just starting my career as a photographer, a good friend of mine, fellow photographer Bill Henry bought his monumental book. At the time, I simply did not understand the photographs. The stark white background photos of the homeless, drifters, ordinary workers, that in a way I grew up around on the Canadian prairies had no appeal to me whatsoever. I was perplexed as to why a photographer would shoot portraits like these and make the people look as raw as they really were.
It wasn’t until later when I matured as a photographer that I started to understand what Avedon was doing. In 1994 I traveled to New York, in part to see Avedon’s incredible retrospective at the Whitney Museum. It was the first time I saw an Avedon print, and saw some of the large prints of the American West. They simply stopped you in your tracks. So stunning were the photographs that you were lost in the detail, it was all about the subject and not about the tricks of photography, lighting or posing. To this day no one has come close to touching Avedon’s brilliance.
There is a great piece on him right now over at Faded and Blurred, you might want to check it out.