Richard Avedon

01st October 2019

Subject and Background

Avedon has used the picture plane to his advantage by placing his subjects in particular areas, so that the negative spaces and lines of the portraits play an important part in emphasising the form of the person. It could be just a head shot, part body shot or full body shot, which ever is chosen for the individual person, somehow Avedon has suited the shot to the essence of the person. An example is Twiggy which is cropped tightly and emphasises the flicking of her hair. It symbolises her energy and creativity, her youth and I also like how the image is out of focus, absolutely love that idea. Yet in contrast the horizontal composition of the actress Nastassja Kinski, uses the snake and the lines of her prone body position to mimic each other in that they are curved, they rise and they fall which in turn emphasises her beautiful body curves. Freudian analyses of snakes is that they represent sexual energy so the symbolism is appropriate here also.

Below, Twiggy, hair by Ara Gallant, Paris, January 6, 1968

Above, Nastassja Kinski, actress, Los Angeles, June 14, 1981

We are asked to look at the portraits that he has created which are using the same strategy as Karl Blossfeldt, where the subject matter is separated from its background therefore I have chosen a few below that I like. All photographs have been taken from the website – The Richard Avedon Foundation.

Below, Chet Baker, singer, New York, January 16, 1986

The composition within these photographs balances the negative spaces really well and the way the portraits are singled out from the backgrounds emphasises shape and form of the positive space.

The lines within each portrait also play an important part as they guide our eyes either from the left to the right of the picture plane or from the top to the bottom. There is also a line within the first head shot where the head is angled and the positioning of the eyes within the image is as though he is looking directly into ours which gives us a personal connection with the subject.

You can see the compositional values of the images within the picture plane below. There are also other lines which are face wrinkle lines which add to the photographers composition so that the image is particularly strong and so our eyes are encouraged to look at the subjects eyes first and then they move around the face.

Below, strong lines within the image of Chet Baker

The above photograph can be divided further because of the shapes of the facial expression and the way the subject has been lit, this can be seen below.

The image below has its’ picture plan divided into half.

The strong parallel lines and triangular composition lines created by the shapes on the face and how the shadows are creating shape draws our eyes inwards.

I believe that some of these details would be over looked if the viewers eye is also having to filter out surplus information, shapes and lines from a background. This is why the plain backgrounds work extremely well for portraiture.

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