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US Photography Icon Avedon Dies

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Richard Avedon, one of the most celebrated photographers of the 20th Century, has died at the age of 81.

Avedon helped create the era of supermodels with sensuous photographs of fashion icons such as Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford.

And his portrait work, often stark, unflattering black-and-white images of the stars, was regarded as setting a new level in photographic art.

Avedon died in Texas where he was working for the New Yorker magazine.

Towering reputation

He worked first for Harper's Bazaar and later for Vogue, producing pictures that were ground-breaking and credited with redefining the concept of fashion photography, moving from rigid poses to more candid, less formal representations.

Avedon was seen as among the best in the business

"He's the most wonderful man in the business because he realises that models are not just coat hangers," model Suzy Parker said of him.

Avedon also developed a towering reputation for portrait work.

His austere images of subjects such as Brigitte Bardot, Charlie Chaplin, and Marilyn Monroe, were intense studies that set the benchmark for artistic photography.

"No to exquisite light, not to apparent compositions, not to the seduction of poses or narratives. And those no's force me to a yes," said Avedon of his technique in 1994.

He captured the essence of dancer Rudolph Nureyev by simply photographing one of his feet.

"The results can be pitiless," Time magazine critic Richard Lacayo once noted of the black-and-white portraits which highlighted "every wrinkle and sag".

Gritty images

Although his work could be unflattering, at times brutally honest, there was never a shortage of subjects willing to be photographed by a man regarded as among the very best in the business.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art staged a major Avedon show in 2002

The 1957 film Funny Face about a fashion photographer and starring Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn, was loosely based on his life.

But he also sometimes left the glitzy world of fashion to capture gritty images of the civil rights movement in the US and the anti-Vietnam war movement.

Avedon was born in New York City in 1923, of Russian-Jewish immigrant parents

He died after suffering a brain haemorrhage while on assignment for the New Yorker magazine in San Antonio, Texas.

BBC News

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