Richard Avedon - Photographs New York Monday, April 4, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

  • Literature

    Abrams, Avedon: In the American West, n.p.

  • Catalogue Essay

    In 1979, Giddings, Texas found itself at the center of the Texas oil boom, as its small, agricultural community was transformed virtually overnight into an industrial center. Richard Avedon reached Giddings in May of 1981, after the boom that would see farmers cashing royalty checks ten times their previous earnings, but before its proverbial bubble would fully burst in 1982. Had he arrived twelve months later, perhaps this portrait would be very different. On the day he photographed Peggy Daniels, she presented herself not as a downtrodden or a hopeless victim of the ebbs and flows of the economy, but as proud, assertive, present. Her manicured hands rest confidently on her hips and her light confident eyes grab hold of the camera as she pulls the viewer in as if to say—this is me.

    In the American West is the culmination of Avedon’s five-year project documenting everyday people in all walks of life, living west of the Mississippi. Though he approached the series with a clear vision, he never intended to have it serve as a representation of the West. “This is a fictional West" he remarked, "I don’t think the West of these portraits is any more conclusive than the West of John Wayne.” He did not search out ‘types’ but rather individuals whose unique lives could speak more broadly to the complexity of the human condition. While Avedon had long-established himself as a pioneer in fashion photography, his incredible career and his many contacts in the field did not afford him any leads in this project, so to find his subjects, he and his team listened to the locals and attended public events that would bring the masses to them. In total, 752 individuals from 17 states stood before Avedon’s lens—oil field workers, cotton farmers, coal miners, pastors, teenagers, elders, fathers, daughters—each photographed against a sheet of oversized white paper, with “invisible” light evenly cast across their faces. The resulting 123 photographs reveal a cast of characters whose differences are balanced only by their similarities, their emotions democratically translated to film by a master of the medium.

  • Artist Biography

    Richard Avedon

    American • 1923 - 2004

    From the inception of Richard Avedon's career, first at Harper's Bazaar and later at Vogue, Avedon challenged the norms for editorial photography. His fashion work gained recognition for its seemingly effortless and bursting energy, while his portraits were celebrated for their succinct eloquence. "I am always stimulated by people," Avedon has said, "almost never by ideas." 

    Indeed, as seen in his portraits — whether of famed movie stars or everyday people — the challenge for Avedon was conveying the essence of his subjects. His iconic images were usually taken on an 8 x 10 inch camera in his studio with a plain white background and strobe lighting, creating his signature minimalist style. Avedon viewed the making and production of photographs as a performance similar to literature and drama, creating portraits that are simultaneously intensely clear, yet deeply mysterious.

    View More Works


Peggy Daniels, cashier, Giddings, TX, May 7

Gelatin silver print, printed 1985.
47 1/2 x 37 1/2 in. (120.7 x 95.3 cm)
Signed, numbered 3/6 in ink, title, date, edition and copyright credit reproduction limitation stamps on the reverse of the mount.

$80,000 - 120,000 

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New York Auction 4 April 2016