Former merchant marine who survived World War II to become arguably the world’s most influential modern fashion photographer.
After the war, at Harper’s Bazaar (1946-65), Avedon introduced a more naturalistic style of fashion photography in which models broke out of frozen poses to run, jump, and even laugh.
Sports photographer Martin Munkacsi, a contemporary at Harper’s under legendary art director Alexei Brodovich, is credited as an influence. Such was Avedon’s renown that the 1957 fashion-world movie satire Funny Face used him as a special visual consultant and featured a character based on him that was played by Fred Astaire.
Uncomfortable with his role as fashion photographer, Avedon moved into portraiture, producing stark, icon-making, black-and-white images of the great and the good and the powerful and also of anonymous weathered faces from America’s heartland.
Full-page Avedon pictures are a signature of the reformulated New Yorker, which appointed him its first-ever staff photographer in 1992.