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Thread: Richard Avedon

  1. #1
    Kevin Kolosky
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    Richard Avedon

    I recently had a chance to see a few of Mr. Avedon's prints at the NYC MOMA. I was very impressed by the clarity, sharpness, and contrast of some of the portraits he did of common people that he met out in the western United States.

    Does anyone know what Equipment and processing methods he used for his work?

  2. #2
    lenser's Avatar
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    Re: Richard Avedon

    I have seen a couple of photos of him using an 8x10 camera on at least some of those western portraits. Can't say whether that was universal for the whole project.
    "One of the greatest necessities in America is to discover creative solitude." Carl Sandburg

  3. #3
    Richard Johnson
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    Re: Richard Avedon

    I know he used Rolleiflexes for several bodies of work and 8x10 for the rest. I've seen photos of him with Deardorfs and Sinar Normas, there has been discussion that he used 360mm Schneider Symmars and Fujinons for the American West portraits. I don't think he was a proper Zone System user and he certainly made use of assistants and professional labs, but he knew what he was doing....

    I have an old American Photo magazine that had shots of his studio and equipment locker - he made a lot of money and did not mess around - he had at least six 2,8 Rolleis ready to go in one, multiple 8x10s, I am sure it was all the best of everything.

  4. #4

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    Re: Richard Avedon

    When I was with Rollei I had to visit his studio during some shoots. Especially during his session where he was doing faces. Those were shot with a Rollei 3.5F and some with a Mamiya TLR with the 80mm lens.
    He was having a flare problem with the Rollei but not with the Mamiya and his assistant, Gabriel, was not able to trace down the flare.

    These were very high key shots and they had a pole of lights on each end of the background flooding it to go very high key. When they set up the lights one lamp head on the left hand side was not quite as head on to the background as all of the others. When using the Mamiya with the 80mm lens it made no difference as the lens did not see that light. But the slightly wider field of the 75mm Rollei lens did catch that mis-aimed light and that was the cause of the flare.

    During the entire session Avedon just stood on the side and laughed.

  5. #5

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    Re: Richard Avedon

    Isn't there a nice video of Avedon working on that series on Youtube? It's all 8X10 with the printing done in New York by some commercial printer.
    There's also the book which has a lot of information.

    I saw that show re-hung at the Amon Carter in Forth a few years ago. It hadn't been shown again since the first hanging. It was magnificent. The biggest prints were two strips of roll paper spliced together, though you could hardly see it. John Rohrbach did a great job on the re-installation in a new space the museum had just opened.

    Just imagine- a little museum in Fort Worth Texas commissioning Avedon to do this project.

    I bumped into Avedon shooting this work at Rancho de Chimayo north of Santa Fe one Easter. I was travelling while on Spring Break and we had driven into Chimayo among a crowd of pilgrims. Folks were doing their penance by walking to the chapel from various distances. Some carrying crosses, some crawling the last bit. When we got there I noticed an expensively, but casually dressed woman sitting on the side of the church who looked slightly out of place. Then a winnebago with a white background taped on the side and an 8X10 covered with a darkcloth. I'd heard about the project....and there he was.

    I was in line going through the church to have my 5X7 film holders blessed and leave a little offering. I didn't get picked for a portrait.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnvwuIVl_6I

  6. #6
    ic-racer's Avatar
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    Re: Richard Avedon

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin J. Kolosky View Post
    I recently had a chance to see a few of Mr. Avedon's prints at the NYC MOMA. I was very impressed by the clarity, sharpness, and contrast of some of the portraits he did of common people that he met out in the western United States.

    Does anyone know what Equipment and processing methods he used for his work?
    from what I recall
    Deardorf 8x10
    b&w film
    360mm lens
    Rolleiflex to hold the background paper on the floor flat

  7. #7
    Greg Davis's Avatar
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    Re: Richard Avedon

    There is a book called "Avedon at Work" that documents his trips out west for that series. It has a lot of photographs showing his camera setup and makeshift studio complete with two assistants. Great book if you really want to see how he made those photographs.

  8. #8
    Unwitting Thread Killer Ari's Avatar
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    Re: Richard Avedon

    From what I remember about In the American West, it was Deardorff 8x10, Fujinon 360, and Tri-X.
    A lot of his earlier work, especially Observations, was all Rolleiflex...and a lot of cropping.
    For me, he will always be among the most interesting and innovative photographers ever.

  9. #9
    Kevin Kolosky
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    Re: Richard Avedon

    To me, there is no doubt that he was a great photographer. But when you look at some of his prints, especially some of his portraits, you see that his greatness was not in setting up a studio shot. Many of the portraits are just straight on shots of somebody. You can't even tell the lighting pattern.

    I think where a lot of his genius lied was in the characters he found to photograph. That is what makes them interesting. Proving once again that great photographs are great because of the thing (or person) photographed.

  10. #10
    bob carnie's Avatar
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    Re: Richard Avedon

    Kevin

    August Sander photographed many normal people in normal situations, I would have to disagree with your point of view...Subject matter is important but what the photographer brings is most important IMO.


    ( Proving once again that great photographs are great because of the thing (or person) photographed)

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