Richard Avedon and Portraiture

Digital Darkroom

One of my set tasks involved me in researching on studio photographers. After some time trying to decide between Chris Floyd and Richard Avedon, I ended up choosing the latter.

I went with Richard Avedon particularly because I’m fond of his portrait work as in most of his pictures, there is a sense of candidness of the subject. As Avedon is known to take shots of famous people, this feeling of candidness gives relationship between the image and the viewer through the impression of familiarity. And because most of these photos are shot in black and white, most black and white images are typically known to have a serious mood to it. Personally, I think that Richard Avedon breaks that mould through the contrast of his subject’s ability to project their genuine and colourful emotions.

For instance:


Sourced from website

This shot of Janis Joplin is one of the examples that I feel capture the sense of naturalness to it.I’m fond of this image particularly because how she’s posed with a cigarette whilst  in mid-laughter. It projects this sense of naturalness and authenticity which, as a viewer, gives some form of connection due to its’ familiarity. Looking closely, I noticed that the style of lighting that was used was butterfly lighting (hopefully I’m right) because of the shadow that has formed underneath her nose. I found it fitting because the catchlight in her eyes gives it a sparkle which emphasised her spirit.


I found this appeal because of the interesting composition that took form. Assuming that the shutter speed was on the lower part of the scale, the movement of the subject produced an abstract image because of the slow shutter speed, therefore showing Sharpton (the subject) probably in mid-conversation. It’s different from regular portraiture, where the subject just sits still and smiles for the camera, and it certainly strange to look at it because it gives this sense of time being slowed down and you’re able to take in the movement a person does frame by frame, which I find fascinating.



This portrait of Isak Dinesen would be a typical example of portraiture. In her eyes you can spot the catchlight and noticed that it’s placed in front of her, slightly to the left and raised, therefore producing loop lighting. I think this type of lighting captures the characteristics of her face which emphasises her aged beauty. I also feel that by having her facial features clearly defined, it shows a sense of kindness in her eyes which could be credited to the catchlight reflected on it which drew my attention. This image is simple and presents Dinesen as a gentle presence.

Overall, the relationship with light and the subject does create different moods to the image. I like Avedon’s style of work because he seems to photography his subjects during a state of candidness which seems more natural to me. And the use of the black and white takes away the idea that all black and white images are meant to be gloomy or moody, instead it emphasises a person’s demeanour.


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