After serving as a Photographer’s Mate Second Class in the U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II, Richard Avedon began working as a freelance photographer, primarily for Harper’s Bazaar, in 1944. Avedon quickly became the magazine’s lead photographer, while also creating formal portraits for many other sources, including his own portfolio.
First showcased in Edward Steichen’s Family of Man exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art in 1955, Avedon’s work has appeared in numerous exhibitions worldwide. His first retrospective was held at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.
Pace Gallery and Pace/MacGill Gallery have recently announced their representation of The Richard Avedon Foundation and currently present Nothing Personal an exhibition which features photographs and extensive archival materials drawn from Nothing Personal, Avedon’s 1964 collaboration with James Baldwin. The presentation at 537 West 24th Street runs through 13 January 2018. To coincide with the occasion, TASCHEN have republished a facsimile edition of Nothing Personal with an accompanying booklet containing a new introduction by Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Hilton Als and rare and unpublished Avedon photographs.
Native New Yorkers Richard Avedon (1923-2004) and James Baldwin (1924-1987) met as students at DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx in the late 1930s. They became friends while writing for and editing The Magpie, the school’s literary magazine. Even as teenagers, they, in their writing, dealt with profound issues of race, mortality, and, as Avedon wrote, “the future of humanity” as World War II closed in on them.
In January of 1963, Avedon photographed Baldwin for a magazine assignment and suggested that they work on a book about life in America. Baldwin readily agreed. “This book,” said Baldwin at the time, “examines some national and contemporary phenomena in an attempt to discover why we live the way we do. We are afflicted by an ignorance of our natures vaster and more dangerous than our ignorance of life on Mars.”
At the core of the photographs – almost all of which will be on view at Pace Gallery – is the question of how Americans understand race relations and their own identities, and, by extension, the identities and civil rights of others.