AVEDON'S STUDIOS, PART 2
As promised on a previous post, here's more on Richard Avedon's New York City photographic studios in the 1950s and 60s. Previously located at 640 Madison Avenue, he was forced to move in 1954 when that building was slated for demolition. The new location, at the northeast corner of Third Avenue and 49th Street, was above the famous Manny Wolf's Steakhouse.
This historic old two-story structure is still there and looking pretty much the same, as the above photo taken in March of 2008 shows. Today the restaurant is called Smith & Wollensky, and it occupies the entire building.
The location at 203 East 49th Street was certainly convenient, being only a few blocks from the ad agencies and magazines on Madison Avenue, and only two blocks from his townhouse on Beekman Place at the east end of 49th Street. And it reeked of atmosphere, what with the wooden floors and fancy "tin" ceiling.
The diagram below shows the floor layout as I remember it. This is not to scale and there may be minor errors (55 years have a way of erasing some of the small details), but it is pretty accurate. If anyone reading this can add more material, I would be deeply grateful.
In the diagram above, the numbered rooms were used as:
1. Reception. This was the domain of his secretary, Polly Hatch.
2. Avedon's studio. There was a skylight above the large frosted glass window, which together yielded beautifully textured natural light with a clean white background. That window is no longer there. At other times we used tungsten studio lighting, and even experimented with Ascor studio strobes in 1956.
3. Studio of associate photographer Bill Bell. Avedon also used this studio at times, and it was later used by another associate photographer, Hiro Wakabayashi.
4. Models' dressing room.
5. Work area, where negatives were numbered, prints mounted, and so on.
6. Office of Avedon's representative, Laura Kanelous.
7. Rest room.
8. Film darkroom, where B&W film was processed.
9. Finishing room, with film drying cabinet, print washer, and rotary Pako print drier.
10. Print darkroom, fitted with an Omega D-2 4x5 enlarger, a Pako contact printer, and a monster Saltzman 8x10 enlarger.
That's me up on the roof, with 49th Street behind me. The townhouses to the left are still there; at that time one of them was home to actress Katharine Hepburn. The other buildings are all long gone. The curvature in the photo is the result of playing with a panoramic circuit camera with a rotating lens.
Later on we will visit the studio at 110 East 58th Street.
DOWNLOAD my "Assisting Avedon" app for iPhone/iPad here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/assisting-avedon/id584943280?mt=8