I mentioned in my last posting Richard Avedon's exhibition in Berlin. I came back home and went straight away to buy a book about the pictures. I came back with 2 books, one contained the pictures themselves and one written by Laura Wilson titled “Avedon At Work”. Wilson accompanied Avedon in his venture as he was taking the pictures. Work extended over 6 years in which portraits of 752 people taken on 17000 large format film sheets in 17 US states and 189 towns were taken. Of all this 123 pictures have been chosen for the exhibition and the books. The negatives of these pictures are kept in the archives while all others have been destroyed.
I was reading Wilson's book in the last few days and I was fascinated to read how a great photographer worked, how he looked for people to make portraits of and how he realised his work. I wondered about the immense will and discipline that drove a photographer to work 6 years on a project taking thousands of pictures, all taken in the same vision portraying people whom we tend to ignore: oil field workers, miners, waiters, drifters and many other professions. I was asking myself where did Avedon get this immense force from to realize such a project? I probably would not have enough discipline to take the pictures of the 10 people in the same manner. Wilson's book described also the lives of a few of these people I saw at the exhibition. Now when I look to the pictures they talk tome in a different way. Some of these pictures radiated such strong expressions and I was able to understand why after I read this book. What even more fascinated me was the process of selecting and then printing the pictures. Some pictures needed a few days of work till satisfactory results came out. Most of them had the size of 144x143cm. Lightness, contrasts had to be reset, parts were burned other were dodged in order to reach the expressions Avendon's wanted to have in his pictures. As I often strongly tend to doubt my photography and the sense of making pictures I felt really down as I read this. I usually make my pictures and don't think much about them. I also can't distinguish much whether a picture needs further work (mainly digital processing, of course in our days) or it is good like this, and why. Many questions pass in my mind when I read such things. Is it worth it making pictures in the way I was doing so far (which also was developing all the time) taking in count that I am an amateur and I should not be so hard on myself, or maybe it doesn't make sense to make any further pictures having realised how the real photographers work and how far I am form them? Or, perhaps I should work on photography trying to develop it become as good, at least in quality? If the latter statement is true then, how can I develop and learn how to make things in the “proper” way? These are big questions and I would be happy if the other members here would discuss with me about them.
Coming back to the books. I did not really touch the frst book containing the portraits. I was keeping it as a treasure for now till I finished the other book. Now I know more about the story and shall be looking at the pictures, perhaps everyday a few ones, although I have seen many of then in original size. I would like to add here that although the pictures in the book are excellent in the size of 26x32cm they are no way near the large size ones I saw in the exhibition. This is why I recommend to all those love photography, portraits in particular, and have the possibility to go to Berlin (or live there) to go to see this exhibition.
I think that this work is going to influence my pictures in the future. I only still don't know how.