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Richard Avedon collection

Identifier: AG 89


Papers, photographic materials, publications, and memorabilia, 1947-1989, of Richard Avedon (1923-2004), photographer. Includes correspondence, clippings, contact sheets, engraver's prints, books, and other materials documenting his career. The collection is active.


  • Creation: 1947-2004


Language of Materials

Material in English

Conditions Governing Access

Correspondence less than twenty-five years old may not be read without permission of the author.

To access materials from this collection, please contact

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is held by the Richard Avedon Foundation. No copying of photographic materials is permitted without approval.

It is the responsibility of the user to obtain permission from the copyright owner (which could be the institution, the creator of the record, the author or his/her transferees, heirs, legates or literary executors) prior to any copyright-protected uses of the collection.

The user agrees to indemnify, defend, and hold harmless the Arizona Board of Regents, the University of Arizona, Center of Creative Photography, including its officers, employees, and agents, from and against all claims made relating to copyright or other intellectual property infringement

Biographical Note

Richard Avedon (1923–2004) was born to parents of Russian Jewish heritage in New York City. As a boy, he learned photography, joining the YMHA Camera Club at the age of twelve; later, he took up poetry, winning a citywide award for high school students during his senior year at DeWitt Clinton in the Bronx.

Avedon joined the armed forces in 1942 during World War II, serving as Photographer’s Mate Second Class in the Merchant Marine. Making identification portraits of the crewmen with his Rolleiflex twin lens camera—a gift from his father—Avedon advanced his technical knowledge of the medium and began to develop a dynamic style. After two years of service he left the Merchant Marine to work as a photographer, making fashion images and studying with art director Alexey Brodovitch at the Design Laboratory of the New School for Social Research.

In 1945, Avedon set up his own studio and worked as a freelance photographer for various magazines. He quickly became the preeminent photographer used by Harper’s Bazaar. There, under the tutelage of Brodovitch, his rise to the top of the profession was meteoric. Avedon developed an original approach to making fashion photographs. He showed the models full of expression: smiling, laughing, and often posed in action. Inspired by Hungarian photojournalist and fashion photographer Martin Munkácsi, Avedon photographed models and fashions on the streets, in nightclubs and circus arenas, and in other locations then uncommon.

From the beginning, Avedon made portraits for editorial publication as well: in the pages of Harper’s Bazaar, in Theater Arts, and in Life and Look magazines. From the outset, he was fascinated by photography’s capacity for suggesting the personality and evoking the life of his subjects. Only rarely did he idealize people; instead, he presented the face as a kind of landscape, with total clarity. He registered poses, attitudes, hairstyles, clothing and accessories as vital, even revelatory elements of the personal image. “My photographs don’t go below the surface. I have great faith in surfaces. A good one is full of clues.”

Avedon continued to make portraiture and fashion photography for magazine publications throughout his career. After parting ways with Harper's Bazaar in 1965, he began a long-term relationship with Vogue that continued through 1988. In later years, he established formidable creative partnerships with the French publication Egoiste, and with The New Yorker. In the pages of these periodicals, Avedon reinvigorated his formalist style, investing his imagery with dynamism and theatricality. In addition, he supported his studio by making innovative advertising work for print and broadcast – defining the look of brands like Calvin Klein, Versace, and Revlon.

As his reputation grew and his signature aesthetic evolved, Avedon remained dedicated to extended portraiture projects as a means for exploring cultural, political, and personal concerns. In 1963-64, Avedon examined the civil rights movement in the American South. During the Vietnam War, he photographed students, countercultural artists and activists, and victims of the war, both in the United States and in Vietnam. In 1976, on a commission for Rolling Stone magazine, he produced The Family, a composite portrait of the American power elite at the time of the country's Bicentennial election. Some of Avedon's most extraordinary portraits were taken of his father Jacob Israel Avedon during the last years of his life: a photographic confrontation with, and ultimate acceptance of, his illness and subsequent death.

In 1985, Avedon created his magnum opus – In the American West. He portrayed members of the working class: butchers, coal miners, convicts, and waitresses, all photographed with precisionist detail, using the large format camera and plain white backdrop characteristic of his mature style. Despite their apparent minimalism and objectivism, however, Avedon emphasized that these portraits were not to be regarded as simple records of people; rather, he said, “the moment an emotion or a fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion.”

Avedon produced and published a number of books over the years. In addition to In the American West (1985), his books include Observations (1959), Nothing Personal (1964), Portraits (1976), and his fashion survey Photographs 1947–1977 (1978). His first museum retrospective came in 1962, at the Smithsonian Institute, and his photographs have been widely exhibited in museums since then: Avedon at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (1970); In the American West at the Amon Carter Museum (1985); Richard Avedon: Evidence 1944-1994 at the Whitney Museum of American Art (1994); and his final retrospective, Portraits, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2002). Since his death, his work has been included in a number of survey exhibitions, most recently, Avedon Fashion 1944-2000 at the International Center of Photography (2009). A complete chronology can be found at


[From press release issued by CCP in 1989.]

* = Mr. Avedon’s publications

Born, New York City
Attended P.S. 6, De Witt Clinton High School, and Columbia University
Co-editor, with James Baldwin, of The Magpie, De Witt Clinton High School literary magazine
Poet Laureate of New York City High Schools
Served in the U.S. Merchant Marines
Studied with Alexey Brodovitch at the Design Laboratory, New School for Social Research, New York
Staff photographer for Harper’s Bazaar
Photographed the French Collections in Paris for Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue
Awarded the Highest Achievement Medal, Art Directors’ Show, New York
Theatre Arts, editor and photographer
Visual consultant for the film, Funny Face, based on Avedon’s career
Observations, photographs by Richard Avedon, text by Truman Capote, Simon and Schuster, Inc.
Exhibition, “Richard Avedon,” Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Photographed the Civil Rights Movement in the South
Nothing Personal, photographs by Richard Avedon, text by James Baldwin, Atheneum
Staff photographer for Vogue
Conducted Master Class in Photography at the Avedon Studio
Photographed the Anti-War Movement across America, including the Chicago 7 during Chicago Conspiracy Trial
Exhibition, “Richard Avedon,” Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Photographed in Vietnam, including the Mission Council
Alice in Wonderland: The Forming of a Company, The Making of a Play, photographs by Richard Avedon, text by Doon Arbus, E.P. Dutton
Exhibition, “Jacob Israel Avedon,” The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Exhibition, “Richard Avedon,” Marlborough Gallery, New York
Portraits photographs by Richard Avedon, Farrar, Straus & Giroux
“The Family,” Rolling Stone magazine, October 21, special Bicentennial issue. Received National Magazine Aware for Visual Excellence
Citation of Dedication to Fashion Photography, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York
Exhibition, “Avedon: Photographs 1947-1977,” fashion retrospective at Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Avedon: Photographs 1947-1977 by Richard Avedon, Farrar, Straus & Giroux
President’s Fellow, Rhode Island School of Design
Exhibition, “Avedon: Retrospective 1946-1980,” University Art Museum, Berkeley, California
Chancellor’s Citation, University of California, Berkeley, California
Named to Hall of Fame, Art Director’s Club, New York
Exhibition, “In the American West,” Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. American tour included: Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Art Institute of Chicago; Phoenix Art Museum; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; The High Museum, Atlanta
In the American West 1979-1984, photographs by Richard Avedon, Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
Named Photographer of the Year, American Society of Magazine Photographers
Received the Maine Photographic Workshop Nikon Award for the Best Photographic Book of the Year
Named Commercial Television Director of the Year by Adweek magazine
Given the Eastman Kodak Award for Excellence as Commercial Television Director of the Year
Harvard University, Certificate of Recognition, Visiting Artist 1986-87
Given Lifetime Achievement Award, Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA)
Enters into archival agreement with CCP.
Dies, San Antonio, Texas


15 Linear Feet

Metadata Rights Declarations

  • License: This record is made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Creative Commons license.


The Collection is arranged into the following series:

  1. Series 1: Biographical Materials
  2. Series 2: Correspondence
  3. Series 3: Publications
  4. Series 4: Project Files
  5. Series 5: Photographic Materials

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was acquired from Richard Avedon beginning in 1989.

Processing Information

The finding aid was updated by Caroline Ross in 2018.

Richard Avedon collection 1947-1989
Finding aid created by CCP Archives Staff.
© 2021
Description rules
Finding Aid Based On Dacs (Describing Archives: A Content Standard)
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid encoded in English

Repository Details

Part of the Center for Creative Photography Archives Repository

1030 N. Olive RD
Tucson Arizona 85721 United States