Born in New York, Richard Avedon attended city public schools and Columbia University, and served in the photographic section of the merchant marines. He studied under Alexey Brodovitch at the New School for Social Research from 1944 to 1950, and became the elder designer's protégé. Avedon was a staff photographer for Junior Bazaar and then Harper's Bazaar for some twenty years, and became a staff photographer at Vogue in 1966. In 1994 he was the first staff photographer hired by The New Yorker. For a photographer whose roots are in publication work, Avedon has been exceptionally successful in museums as well. He was included in the 1955 landmark exhibition The Family of Man at the Museum of Modern Art, and has received solo exhibitions at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and many other institutions. Most recently, the Whitney Museum of American Art presented Evidence: 1944-1994, a career retrospective of his work, and ICP organized Avedon Fashion 1944–2000 in 2009. In 1993, Avedon received the Master of Photography Infinity Award from ICP.
Since the late 1940s--when Avedon's blurred black-and-white portrait heads were acclaimed for capturing the raw dynamism of youth--his photography has changed to reflect the style, energy and dynamism of the moment. He helped set the standard for sleek, urbane elegance in mid-twentieth century fashion photography, and his gift for highlighting the allure and drama of his subjects has made him one of the most iconic photographers of the late twentieth century. Avedon maintains that "a photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows he's being photographed, and what he does with this knowledge is as much a part of the photograph as what he's wearing or how he looks."
Meredith FisherHandy et al. Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection, New York: Bulfinch Press in association with the International Center of Photography, 1999, p. 207.