Two years ago, when I was still living in Paris, I went to an exhibition on Richard Avedon‘s work. Avedon is a famous photographer renowned for his portraits of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin, Tina Turner, Janis Joplin and so many others. He also dedicated part of his career shooting ordinary people whose hard lives and/or works left distinctive marks on their bodies and facial features.
Paradoxically, rather than hiding defects, Avedon’s black and white pictures extraordinarily unveil and magnify all these little marks that make us unique individuals. Although we can clearly read all the signs of age, experience, pain and weariness in the models, Avedon took care not to show distress and dispair on his photos. He just highlighted how much tough and resignated life can be for some people.
Avedon was not an “instant” photographer and the anonymous models he used all posed for him. However, he really managed to capture their human essence since he didn’t resort to any staging. The plain dimension of his photos just shows the reality of life.
A few portraits are striking. The eyes of some photographed models are appealing and sometimes contrast with their deep burrowed or darked skin resulting from the mining and labouring professions they had. This is truly fascinating and I can’t help but be attracted to them and what they express!
When staring at these individuals, I always try to imagine what their personalities and stories were. And when the photos show kids, I wonder how they went with their lives and what kind of future they expected at the time…