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Richard Avedon photo show at Nassau museum

Richard Avedon poses with his photographs of Marilyn

Richard Avedon poses with his photographs of Marilyn Monroe, right, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor inside the retrospective exhibit of his portraits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Wednesday. (Oct. 9, 2002) Credit: AP

As a title, "Richard Avedon: Photographer of Influence," the new Nassau County Museum of Art show opening Saturday, is an understatement.

So says Karl Willers, director of the museum: "Within Western culture, it's hard to think of photography without thinking of Richard Avedon. He became as much a celebrity as those he photographed."

That's saying something when you see the famous faces and figures he captured. Among those in the Nassau show are Marilyn Monroe with then-husband Arthur Miller, Humphrey Bogart, Bob Dylan, Truman Capote, Marlene Dietrich, William Burroughs, Ezra Pound, Marian Anderson, Chet Baker, Twiggy and Brigitte Bardot.

"He also created celebrities," says Willers, citing Suzy Parker, the world's first supermodel, featured in Avedon's mid-'50s fashion photography.

But confining his career to fashion and fame would be a mistake.


"A portrait is not a likeness," Avedon wrote in text for "In the American West," published in 1985. "The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion. . . . All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth."

Now considered one of his most probing works, "American West" was criticized at the time for presenting an unflattering national portrait. But Avedon, who died in 2004, was also praised for treating his obscure subjects with a dignity usually reserved for the rich and powerful.

"To him, photography was far more than a mechanical process," says Willers. "What the camera actually captures doesn't necessarily document reality."

His 1960s photos of civil rights and Vietnam protests stirred emotions on both sides of those confrontations.


The exhibit, organized by the University of Arizona's Center for Creative Photography, makes its only East Coast appearance at the Roslyn Harbor galleries. It will be accompanied by a screening of the 1957 film "Funny Face," starring Fred Astaire as fashion photographer Dick Avery (a thinly veiled Richard Avedon character) and Audrey Hepburn as an American rube transformed by haute couture into a sophisticate. Some of Avedon's top models -- Parker, Sunny Harnett and Dovima -- are favored with cameos. "Funny Face," part of the Gold Coast Film Festival, will be shown outdoors at sundown June 4.

You'll also see a Dior gown from 1946-47 modeled by Dovima when both Avedon and Christian Dior were making names for themselves. First for Harper's Bazaar and then Vogue, he shot fashion like nobody else, placing models in the middle of Times Square, for instance, rather than in a studio -- turning models into stars.

And stars were his models, often shot isolated against a white background. As ever, Richard Avedon shot it his way.

WHAT "Richard Avedon: Photographer of Influence" exhibition

WHEN | WHERE Saturday through Sept. 4, 11 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, at the Nassau County Museum of Art, 1 Museum Dr., Roslyn Harbor

INFO $10, $8 seniors, $4 students and children 4 to 12, $2 parking on weekends;, 516-484-9338

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