The La Dolce Vita Influence
A recent viewing of Fellini's masterful 1960 film brought back memories of that sweet time when, as assistant to the renowned photographer Richard Avedon, I made my first trip to Europe. It was July 1962 and we were in Paris on assignment to Harper's Bazaar, covering the fall couture collections.
By this time Avedon was widely recognized as perhaps the most innovative fashion photographer ever, even though his passion was for photography itself rather than couture. In fact, he was beginning to question the whole world of fashion, considering it to be narcissistic and meaningless. The 1960 movie dealt with those same themes, probably influencing Avedon in how he would go about photographing the fall fashions. As a paparazzi! Yes, as one of those horrible cameramen that prey on celebrities, seeking and selling scandal. That whole breed was best exemplified in the movie by the character of Paparazzo, the sidekick of the leading man. It was his name that coined the infamous word.
What prompted me to once again watch the movie was a telephone interview I had last month with the BBC in Britain. They were interested in my recollections of one of Avedon's most outrageous photos from that collection. Here's the story:
Sick of pretty, contrived fashion photography, Avedon in 1962 took a novel approach. Enlisting the aid of his friends Suzy Parker (supermodel and budding movie star) and Mike Nichols (comedian and film director), he cast the pair as hot celebrities fleeing the press and gossip mongers. A plot line was conceived, they acted it out, and Avedon caught it all on film. Rather than use his familiar 8x10 camera, he did most of it in 35mm with a telephoto lens, and sometimes with a Rolleiflex TLR. Flash, when used, was right on the camera for a look of immediacy. It was all done in Black & White, as was the movie that inspired it. Suzy wore the fashions, Mike just tagged along. The most famous shot (photo, above) from the entire collection was taken at Maxim's in Paris. It is cropped here because I do not have a copy, and the one the BBC e-mailed me was incomplete and a very poor scan.
It was around this time that he began to look more to portraiture as his true oeuvre.
Photography's Golden Age ended long ago but remains very much alive in my memory. From 1952 through 1965 I assisted Avedon during his most creative period, and do I ever have the stories to tell! Now, at the end of 2015, is the time to reveal all, while I'm still alive and kicking. Tales of personalities, motivations, intrigues, and even the fine details of how it was all done.
What I need to make this a reality is a co-conspirator to aid in getting the whole, true, uncensored story published -- either as a book, an e-book, or even a documentary.
Anyone interested? Leave a comment and I'll get back to you.