Richard Avedon: Portraits of Power

Posted on 28.01.2009


After leaving the Christo show at the Phillips, Drew and I hopped the Red Line and took it to the next stop on our way to the Corcoran, where Richard Avedon’s Portraits of Power was on it’s final date.

Not an Avedon portrait. Description below*

It was turning into a great day: We got to the Corcoran at 4:30pm, and it was set to close at 5. As we walked up to the desk, with our ‘buy-one-get-one-admission-free’ ticket, the attendant said to just go on in, since there were only 30 minutes left.

Yes! We made a dash upstairs and made our way through the show. In only 25 minutes, we managed to see everything. Unfortunately, we didn’t take the time that Richard’s work deserves. Fortunately, Richard’s shooting style made it easy to breeze through.

Luckily, we had enough time to read all of the tags and descriptions. I still don’t think it was enough time to really take the work in. Adding to this was the fact that EVERYONE IN DC felt the need to be there that evening, and also felt that it was entirely necessary to stand as close to the work as possible without moving (only one person was forgiven for this, because he was an albino and I know how bad their eyesight can be), therefore slowing down our expedited viewing flow!!!

My favorite thing about this series (this collection of multiple series) is that the similar shooting style allows you to look past the composition and really “see” the subjects. There is so much emotion in the images, so much personality coming from the subjects. It stands out in a way that many portrait photographers can only try to emulate. One might even go so far to say, after viewing this show, that backgrounds, situations and settings are for amateurs.

It would be hard to choose a favorite image, although I can say that I was excited to see a portrait of Buckminster Fuller in one of the rooms, and the Dalai Lama in another. And the large-scale print(s) of the Chicago Seven was mighty impressive, especially since it is proof of what an 8×10 negative is capable of producing.

*As we were leaving, we saw there was a line in the main hall, and upon closer inspection found that it was a part of the show: a photo booth set up to take your photo as if you were being photographed by Avedon himself! You can view the entire gallery HERE. Be warned: a lot of people felt the need to take entirely too many photos of their families, kids, significant others. My photo with Drew is the included image. We only took one.

Posted in: art