Richard Avedon - Photographs New York Wednesday, October 7, 2015 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, London

  • Literature

    Abrams, Avedon: In the American West, n.p.
    Wilson, Avedon at Work in the American West, p. 25

  • Catalogue Essay

    “A portrait is not a likeness. The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion. There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.”
    - Richard Avedon

    Richard Avedon, more than any other photographer of his generation, viewed making photographs a performance on par with literature and drama. Never satisfied with a sole role as a fashion photographer, particularly after the criticism he received at Harper’s Bazaar for his inclusion of non-Caucasian models in key editorial shoots, his access to the literati, political and popular leaders led him to create portraits of intense clarity and deep mystery, as open to interpretation as a dream and as unforgiving as sunburn.

    The project that became In The American West began in October 1978 at the suggestion of Bob Wilson, an advisor to the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas and husband of Laura Wilson, who would assist on the project and later authored Avedon at Work In The American West, a memoir of traveling and working with the renowned photographer. Wilson approached Mitchell Wilder, the first director of the Amon Carter with the nugget of the idea. Avedon then showed them portraits of a ranch foreman in Ennis, Montana made July 4th that year. Wilder was so impressed, he conjured the idea of a commission where Avedon would travel the West, photographing people he chose, resulting in a monograph and exhibitions, naturally beginning with the Amon Carter. Accepting the proposal, from March 1979 to October 1984 Avedon covered seventeen states, producing 17,000 negatives of 752 subjects from which merely 123 images were culled, produced and illustrated.

    When Avedon and his assistants reached Albany, Texas in June 1979 they had been on the road for three months seeking subjects Wilson described as “surprising – heartbreaking – or beautiful in a terrifying way. Beauty that might scare you to death until you acknowledge it as part of yourself.” Albany, northeast of Abilene, west of Fort Worth, and nowhere near an interstate, was experiencing a major population growth (nearly 25% in the decade preceding) and positive economic effects as a result of a domestic oil boom that occurred in the aftermath of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil embargo of 1973-1974. When it came to drilling for oil, it was all hands on deck.

    Immediately apparent in Bubba Morrison, Albany, Texas, is that the subject is a boy donning a workingman’s grime and gear. With his arms crisscrossing his torso, his hips slightly weighted to the side, his face neither a grimace nor a smile, rather than a man on the job, Bubba could easily be mistaken for a schoolboy, complaining of a stomach ache and hoping to be excused. In some respects, In The American West is a paean to a troubled American childhood. Scattered among the roughnecks and slaughterhouse workers, tattooed prisoners and drifters there is an inordinate number of portraits of children and teenagers. Avedon’s eye, the Greek chorus of the 20th Century, shows them aging faster than their bodies can express.

  • 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


Bubba Morrison, oil field worker, Albany, Texas, June 10

Gelatin silver print, printed 1985.
55 1/4 x 44 1/2 in. (140.3 x 113 cm) Overall 62 1/4 x 48 7/8 in. (158.1 x 124.1 cm)
Signed, numbered 3/6 in ink, title, date, edition and copyright credit reproduction limitation stamps on the reverse of the mount.

$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for $118,750

Contact Specialist
Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head, Photographs

Sarah Krueger
Head of Sale, New York

General Enquiries:
+1 212 940 1245


New York Auction 8 October 2015