Richard Avedon: A Beacon of Brilliance (and Hope!)

Richard Avedon was my very first photographic hero. My love affair with his work began in my first year of college, when one of our first assignments was to do a brief presentation on a photographer that we liked. Seeing as I knew nothing of the world of photography or particular photographers at that time, I Googled the words ‘fashion’ and ‘photography’ and there he was; a beacon of the most resounding brilliance, the likes of which I had never known. You’ll have to forgive my gushing, but have you ever witnessed something – a song, a painting, a film, a really good burger – and at that very moment wondered how you ever even began to think you were actually living? Yeah. It’s like that. Seeing as there are thousands of sites and sources where you can get all the juicy details on Avedon’s life and work, including a documentary that I demand HIGHLY suggest you watch, I’ll just give you the skinny of it here.

Richard Avedon was born on May 15, 1923 (he was a Taurus!) in New York City and for over fifty years, redefined and set the bar for the respective worlds of fashion and fine art photography, often simultaneously. Avedon made his living (and then some) predominately as a commercial fashion photographer, and garnered the same amount of recognition and esteem for his portrait work, an area of photography for which he had a particular fondness.

“There’s always been a separation between fashion and what I call my ‘deeper’ work…fashion is where I make my living. I’m not knocking it…it’s pleasure, and then there’s the deeper pleasure of doing my portraits…” -Richard Avedon, 1974

This portrait of Marilyn Monroe was taken during the down-time of their portrait session together. Avedon captures a rare moment when Monroe was not “on” for the cameras, a sign of the amount of trust and respect she had for him. -May 6, 1957

It was as if he could coerce the very soul of a person to surface, and capture it forever on film, with his incredibly intimate portrait sessions during which he would guide his subjects into psychologically-probing, sometimes uncomfortable, conversation. He was also no stranger to fame, as his list of subjects reads like a “Who’s Who” list of pop culture with names like Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe, The Beatles, Allen Ginsberg, Hillary Clinton, and Charlize Theron among the many. His fashion list was much the same, with names like Twiggy, Naomi Campbell, and Veruschka filling the bill. Avedon also collaborated on campaigns with design powerhouses the likes of Christian Dior and Versace, including a decade-long stint shooting a large bulk of Gianni Versace’s campaigns. In addition, he was the lead staff photographer at Vogue magazine for over two decades, and was the first ever staff photographer for The New big… Indeed, from the 50’s onward, both Richard Avedon’s images and name became ubiquitous within the world and would forever remain, burning as brightly today as they did upon their arrival. Sadly, he left this world on  October 1, 2004. He is survived by his son John, and four grandchildren.

Richard Avedon’s photographic style is best witnessed, not read about, but if one HAD to use words to describe the magnanimity that is Avedon, one would use words like ‘minimal’, ‘energetic’, ‘fresh’, ‘poignant’, ‘classic’, and ‘unforgettable’…hypothetically speaking, of course.

Before I conclude this nutshell, I have to mention one of my favorite things about Richard Avedon: as well as being one of the richest and most prolific photographers in history, he was also a high-school dropout, and started his photographic career shooting passport/I.D. photos for the Merchant Marines!! He was discovered while working as an advertising photographer in a department store and was whisked away to Harper’s Bazaar..and the rest, as they say, is history.

If that doesn’t make you optimistic about life, then I don’t know what will!!

You never know where your next opportunity will come from, or when it will be, but you can  prepare yourself for when it does present itself. Be ready to be brilliant!!

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Lighting Tutorial: Lighting a Diva

Note: In this image a second flag was added, to block the flare of the right accent light.

This shoot was a long one – we did 6 completely different looks! The moment Veronica slipped into this gown (provided by Karima Renee for TheSkinnyMinority Image Consulting) and Tatiana worked her makeup magic, she instantly became a diva worthy of a Guinness World Reord. After she threw a couple cell phones at some poor passersby and we had provided her with the 5,897 pitted cherries imported from Australia, she decided to grace us with her presence on set for exactly 4 minutes. Here’s what I got in that sliver of time. (If I never have to see another cherry again in my life it’ll be too soon…) 

For this dramatic movie-star lighting, I used a very simple 3-light set-up against a black seamless. The main light here is a large beauty dish, set up high to the left of me at a 60-degree angle, creating the shadows under the model’s chin and curves. There is an accent light behind the model on the left at half-power with a light-blue gel to add a faint, moon-like glow and some separation. This light was flagged off from the background in order to prevent any spilling onto the black. The second accent light with the orange gel on the right is set up at the same height as the first, but is closer to the model, almost standing on the seamless. It is also set at full power. This light was not flagged, in order to create the brilliant flare that washes over her. If you look closely at the very bottom of the frame, you will notice a reflection; the model is standing on a sheet of black plexiglass. This may seem superfluous here, but in a large-scale print of this image, this simple element can add a polished touch. Here is a bird’s eye flat of what this set-up looked like, for all you visual people:

Please excuse my elementary Illustrator skills. I didn’t have a Wacom tablet handy. Then you would’ve been able to marvel at my elementary drawing skills instead. :-/

I hope this post was helpful, informative, or atleast entertaining! If you have any questions or comments, by all means don’t keep them to yourself! Share them down below in the comment section or email them to me directly at

Also, if there are any studio lighting setups that you’d like to me to recreate, or any from my website that you’d like an explanation of, let me know! I’m up for the challenge and here to help!!

Curves & Confidence

Recently I got the opportunity to work with the bodacious, curvacious Veronica Tejado, one of Wilhelmina’s newest plus-sized models. Veronica and I met once previously at a mutual friend’s going-abroad party and immediately bonded over food and fabulousness. After our shoot, we (along with stylist Karima Renee for TheSkinnyMinorityStyling and makeup guru Tatiana Ward for BeatFaceHoney) went out for dinner and had some awesome food and correlating conversation. Among the topics that we chewed over that night (lame pun intended) were a few that really stuck with me: how to chase your dreams wisely, body image, and the importance of good support systems.

I want to expound upon the latter topic for a bit. (For all you non-readers, the link for the pretty pictures is down below.)

It’s no secret that having a good support system is crucial to success on any level in any instance, but it is surprisingly shocking how many people live without one. On a whole, my family has been pretty supportive of me growing up and encouraged me to follow my dreams, so long as they led to stability (happiness and fulfillment were perks). Fair enough, considering I’m the first of my family to go to college, the eldest of three, and my parents come from a “work hard, then work harder” upbringing. Things got a little shaky when I chose art school over a hefty scholarship in English Education, but still, they stood by me.

But what if they hadn’t?

During college I met people whose backgrounds and family situations blew my mind. But what astounded me even more was the tenacity and faith that some of those people had in themselves, and had created for themselves, in spite of everything. It was truly inspiring, and I found myself many times drawing strength from their strength. I won’t go on and on about this as much as I’d like to, but I will leave you with this final thought on the matter:

It doesn’t matter where you come from, what your situation is, or what you do. Your biggest obstacle, your biggest competition, and, more importantly, your biggest fan is YOURSELF. 

And if that’s not enough, I’m rooting for you too! ::shakes pom-poms::

Now that I’ve gabbed, follow the link to see the sizzling Veronica and how she flaunts her curves and her confidence!!

(Also, for all you photographers, I will be posting a lighting tutorial soon based on some of the looks from my shoot with Veronica, so be sure to stay tuned!)

from l to r – Karima Renee, R.Carter, Veronica Tejado, Tatiana Ward
(Karima and Tatiana are going to kill me for posting this picture, so if you don’t see me for a while, look in one of their basements! ^_^)