“Richard Avedon’s photo shows the contrarian thinking and contrast between
the sophistication of the beautiful Domiva, one of Vogue’s highest paid models,
in an Evening Dress by Dior, standing with old-aged and wrinkled Elephants.“
American photographer Richard Avedon was best known for his work in the fashion world and for his minimalist portraits. He worked first as a photographer for the Merchant Marines, taking identification photos. He then moved to fashion, shooting for Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, demanding that his models convey emotion and movement, a departure from the norm of motionless fashion photography.
Already established as one of the most talented young fashion photographers in the business, in 1955 Avedon made fashion and photography history when he staged a photo shoot at a circus. The iconic photograph of that shoot, “Dovima with Elephants,” features the most famous model of the time in a black Dior evening gown with a long white silk sash. She is posed between two elephants, her back serenely arched as she holds on to the trunk of one elephant while reaching out fondly toward the other. The image remains one of the most strikingly original and iconic fashion photographs of all time. “He asked me to do extraordinary things,” Dovima said of Avedon. “But I always knew I was going to be part of a great picture.”
Avedon served as a staff photographer for Harper’s Bazaar for 20 years, from 1945 to 1965. In addition to his fashion photography, he was also well known for his portraiture. His black-and-white portraits were remarkable for capturing the essential humanity and vulnerability lurking in such larger-than-life figures as President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Marilyn Monroe, Bob Dylan and The Beatles.
Avedon left Harper’s Bazaar in 1965, and from 1966 to 1990 he worked as a photographer for Vogue. He continued to push the boundaries of fashion photography with surreal, provocative and often controversial pictures in which nudity, violence and death featured prominently.
One of the greatest photographers of the 20th century, Richard Avedon expanded the genre of photography with his surreal and provocative fashion photography as well as portraits that bared the souls of some of the most important and opaque figures in the world. Avedon was such a predominant cultural force that he inspired the classic 1957 film Funny Face, in which Fred Astaire’s character is based on Avedon’s life. While much has been and continues to be written about Avedon, he always believed that the story of his life was best told through his photographs. Avedon said, “Sometimes I think all my pictures are just pictures of me. My concern is… the human predicament; only what I consider the human predicament may simply be my own.”
Biography Credit: biography.com
In the Leland Hirsch Private Collection
Dovima with Elephants
Edition of 50, printer later
Gelatin silver print
49 x 40 inches