Richard Avedon - Photographs London Thursday, May 20, 2021 | Phillips

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  • 'It is necessary, while in darkness, to know that there is a light somewhere. To know that in oneself, waiting to be found, there is a light. What the light reveals is danger, and what it demands is faith.'
    —James Baldwin in Nothing Personal (1964)

    The present photograph of William Casby, a former slave from Algiers, Louisiana was taken in March 1963, just 3 months prior to President Kennedy’s historic speech that put into motion the civil rights legislation of 1964. Whereas Avedon’s earlier portraits were known for their movement, here we see the contrary – his subject frozen in time. Accompanied by the typically descriptive title that Avedon was known for and charged by the political environment in which it was taken, Casby’s static pose documents the still limited social equality of African-Americans one century following the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863.

    • Literature

      R. Avedon & J. Baldwin, Nothing Personal, Cologne: Taschen, 2017, n.p.
      Avedon: The Sixties, New York: Random House, 2007, p.125
      Richard Avedon: An Autobiography, New York: Random House, 1993, pl. 83

    • 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


William Casby, Born in Slavery, Algiers, Louisiana, 24 March

Gelatin silver print.
16.1 x 15.5 cm (6 3/8 x 6 1/8 in.)
Signed in pencil in the margin; signed, titled, dated, numbered 2/11 in pencil and copyright credit reproduction limitation stamp on the verso.

Full Cataloguing

£25,000 - 35,000 

Sold for £37,800

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Rachel Peart
Head of Department, London

Yuka Yamaji
Head of Photographs, Europe

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London Auction 20 May 2021