Saturday, December 6, 2008

Dear Richard, it's on.

I have been doing some research on Richard Avedon's work. It is obviously a different approach to the subject compared to others of his time (much colder and well a little predatory compared to the sympathetic one of say Irving Penn). But is it just about throwing in a perfectly white background (and having your subject stand up for an hour?) Not really, as his subjects are actually fairly low contrast (with the exception of the signature slightly overblown skin). I suspect burning and dodging only played a secondary role, and the "signature look" was actually a very distinctive light histogram distribution (in PS lingo) , that back in the day was achieved by using specific developing techniques. So I am doing some research....
This is a good way to (self) describe his work:
"I've worked out of a series of no's. No to exquisite light, no to apparent compositions, no to the seduction of poses or narrative. And all these no's force me to the "yes." I have a white background. I have the person I'm interested in and the thing that happens between us. "

This paragraph was taken from a comment by Jay Johnson on a photo forum.

Back in the 60's, 70's and 80's that NYC fashion guys were big into what everyone is calling the "Avedon look" including Avedon.

Most popular was shooting Tri-X overexposed (pushed to 1200 or more) with a #25 red filter. The models were made up with black lipstick and black nail polish. The film was processed in Dektol 1:3 or 1:4 at 70F for 4-5 minutes after a pre-soak.

This technique results in a porcelain looking skin and a soft but high contrast look that glows."

Will give it a try.