the avedon era


In 1960 Richard Avedon photographed the poet W. H. Auden on St. Mark’s Place, New York, in the middle of a snow storm. A few passers-by and buildings are visible to the left of the frame but the blizzard is in the process of freezing Auden in the midst of what is meteorologically termed “a white-out.” Avedon had by then already patented his signature approach to portraiture, so it is tempting to see this picture as a God-given endorsement of his habit of isolating people against a sheer expanse of white, as evidence that his famously severe technique is less a denial of naturalism than its apotheosis. Auden is shown full-length, bundled up in something that seems a cross between an old-fashioned English duffle coat and a prototype of the American anorak. Avedon, in this image, keeps his distance.

more from Geoff Dyer at Threepenny Review here.