Richard Avedon never considered himself a photographer, much less (the horror!) a fashion photographer, yet in sixty years of peripatetic productivity (1944–2004) he revolutionised that field and reinvented photographic portraiture. His work in the fashion industry – as a photographer and, often, creative director of advertising campaigns for Versace, Calvin Klein, and Dior, among others – brought fame and the money to fund the projects that nourished him and for which Avedon believed he would be remembered.
‘He realized that his fame was built around that accomplishment, which was, after all, very real and very large and quite remarkable, but he also knew that being a fashion photographer was, in the universe of fame, a strange thing to be,’ writes Adam Gopnik, one of the nearly dozen voices who eulogise Avedon at the end of Norma Stevens and Steven M.L. Aronson’s controversial and engrossing biography.