I’ll be honest, I have had a hard time finishing books over the last few years. I have started many but only finished a handful. I use to read several books a month but for some reason my ability to concentrate has changed. The few books I have completed have been actual books, not digital. So maybe that has something to do with it? I bought this book used through Amazon, it is a Library discard, so it has that plastic cover which makes this wonderful crackle when you open it. I always loved that sound.
I have really enjoyed this dishy inside view of one of the most iconic photographers of our time. As I read, I realized that though I lived in NY at the same time and even photographed some of the same models and celebrities. I somehow never felt I occupied the same universe, he was other worldly to me.
This book, told from the view of Norma Stevens, his long time studio director, agent and confident, brings the legend down to earth. She paints a picture of a talented, passionate artist who struggled with insecurities and jealousy in a fickle industry that values youth before all else. He was both a tightwad and extremely generous. A mentor to many and often dismissive of his own commercial work, feeling he was overshadowed by “true artists” like Diane Arbus and Penn.
There has been some controversy over Stevens’s account by others in the inner Avedon circle but there is no disputing her access and close relationship with him. I believe we all have a different version of the same story. Did she stretch the truth as some claim? Whose to say, maybe this was her reality, she does not sugar coat it, that is for sure.
Check out some of the many books of Avedon’s work here and I use to show this documentary to my students, not the best version of it but worth watching none the less. By the way, I still have about 100 pages to go but am not concerned, this one I will finish.
all photos & content © Lara Rossignol