Richard Avedon was notoriously touchy about his advertising work. He rarely spoke of it and was sensitive to accusations that he was merely a commercial photographer. He wanted to be talked of purely as an artist.
But in 1965, Avedon was quoted as saying: “I think that my creative work in advertising is the hardest, most honest work I do. There are no illusions. The adverts are records of the world we live in, and it’s possible the record of my ads over the past 20 years could be a more valuable social document than a record of what I think of as my finest fashion photographs.”
Avedon will perhaps always be known primarily for his association with Vogue. When Diana Vreeland left the rival fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar for Vogue in 1962, Avedon joined her as a staff photographer. He proceeded to become the magazine’s lead photographer later that decade, shooting most of the magazine’s covers from 1973 until Anna Wintour became Editor-in-Chief in late 1988.
On his death in 2004 at the age of 81, The New York Times published an obituary that said of the New York-born photographer: “His fashion and portrait photographs helped define America’s image of style, beauty and culture for the last half-century.”
Yet many more people, knowingly or not, would have seen Avedon’s advertising work before his personal or editorial photography.