A legend, a wondrous individual; a human-being who photographed fashion and portraits that truly helped to define America’s unique image of style, Richard Avedon’s photographs depicted such beauty and were inspiring to a culture of people. His style of photography reflected the times and in Women in the Mirror these were minimalist photographs of women who were poor, young, old, famous or infamous. The photographs captured the essence of the women no matter where she was on the ladder of life. The photographs represented social change, cultural archetypes, fashion styles and included emotional connections within the lives of women. Avedon created images until the day that he passed on.
As explained in art historian Hollander’s ending essay, Avedon was the first photographer to break down the barriers between high, “serious,” photography and low, “non-serious,” photography by applying his intimate, shadowy style to all of his subjects, regardless of their social background. It is a shift that can be seen in the stirring juxtapositions of toothless street performer Zazi with the model Dorian Leigh, and the full-bodied field marshal Gloria Gonzales with the petite Rose Kennedy.
The ambiguity of all of the photos forces viewers to stop for a moment and take a look. When the shutter opens the questions arise as to what is truly there. A figure of course, but it is what is inside of that figure that the photo can sometimes describe and other times it can’t describe at all. It may sometimes be shock and awe or it may just be blissful. We see portraits and at times shrug it off as just a portrait of a person; a staged event, but with Avedon’s book these images are striking and offer a sophisticated approach that makes an individual take a second look and try to peer into the lives of these women.
Life is filled with experiences and Avedon’s approach to these photographs and the people within them is one that is filled with a great sense of human connection; an elemental sense of the souls of others. Avedon used these photographs to reflect a time and a place of famous and infamous women in America, his ideas were vivid and his attitude for the profession of photography transcends far beyond the words that have been conveyed.