Avedon at Work: In the American West

Overview

Internationally acclaimed for his portraits of powerful and accomplished people and women of great beauty, Richard Avedon was one of the twentieth century's greatest photographers?but perhaps not the most obvious choice to create a portrait of ordinary people of the American West. Yet in 1979, the Amon Carter Museum of Fort Worth, Texas, daringly commissioned him to do just that.

The resulting 1985 exhibition and book, In the American West, was a milestone in American ...

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Overview

Internationally acclaimed for his portraits of powerful and accomplished people and women of great beauty, Richard Avedon was one of the twentieth century's greatest photographers—but perhaps not the most obvious choice to create a portrait of ordinary people of the American West. Yet in 1979, the Amon Carter Museum of Fort Worth, Texas, daringly commissioned him to do just that.

The resulting 1985 exhibition and book, In the American West, was a milestone in American photography and Avedon's most important body of work. His unflinching portraits of oilfield and slaughterhouse workers, miners, waitresses, drifters, mental patients, teenagers, and others captured the unknown and often-ignored people who work at hard, uncelebrated jobs. Making no apologies for shattering stereotypes of the West and Westerners, Avedon said, "I'm looking for a new definition of a photographic portrait. I'm looking for people who are surprising—heartbreaking—or beautiful in a terrifying way. Beauty that might scare you to death until you acknowledge it as part of yourself."

Photographer Laura Wilson worked with Avedon during the six years he was making In the American West. In Avedon at Work, she presents a unique photographic record of his creation of this masterwork—the first time a major photographer has been documented in great depth over an extended period of time. She combines images she made during the photographic sessions with entries from her journal to show Avedon's working methods, his choice of subjects, his creative process, and even his experiments and failures. Also included are a number of Avedon's finished portraits, as well as his own comments and letters from some of the subjects.

Avedon at Work adds a new dimension to our understanding of one of the twentieth century's most significant series of portraits. For everyone interested in the creative process it confirms that, in Laura Wilson's words, "much as all these photographs may appear to be moments that just occurred, they are finally, in varying degrees, works of the imagination."

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Known at the time as a preeminent fashion and portrait photographer, Richard Avedon was commissioned in 1978 by the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, TX, to document life in the American West. The result was an exhibition of 123 life-size photographs mounted at the Amon Carter and a book called In the American West, 1979-1984. Wilson, who would later produce her own books, Hutterites of Montana and Watt Matthews of Lambshead, was one of Avedon's three assistants for the project. Her latest book, organized like a travel journal, contains Wilson's photos of Avedon, his subjects, and their surroundings along with handwritten notes and letters from family members of some of his portrait subjects. Mixed within her narrative are careful technical notes and detailed descriptions of Avedon's physical and personal process. Though it is not meant to replace Avedon's original or to serve as a comprehensive review of the project, this book's unusual format and Wilson's invaluable insights make it noteworthy as a standalone, especially for students of photography and for those familiar with Avedon's project. For public and academic libraries or specialized collections in photography or the history and culture of the American West.-Kate Cunningham-Hendrix, Colorado State Univ. Lib., Fort Collins Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Laura Wilson is a photographer whose previous books are Hutterites of Montana and Watt Matthews of Lambshead. Her work has also appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the New Yorker, the Washington Post Magazine, and London’s Sunday Times Magazine. She lives in Dallas.
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Table of Contents

Foreword by Larry McMurtry
Acknowledgments
Avedon at Work
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