Richard Avedon is a genius.

I stood blown away by his portrait of dancer Rudolf Nureyev.  Just blown away. The portrait is one of over 200 photographs in the Avedon retrospective currently on exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  From Marilyn Monroe to Barack Obama, the exhibit is an amazing retrospective that spans the American photographer’s remarkable career in both commercial and fine photography.

One particular collection that I loved was In the American West, a series of photographs Avedon produced from 1979 to 1984 for the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, TX.  The series consists of bold black and white portraits of ordinary men and women shot against a plain white background.  These are photographs of real people: coal miners, oil workers, beekeepers, prisoners and drifters, who lived the hard life in the American West.   He photographed 752 individuals and from that pool selected 123 portraits for exhibition.  What is so remarkable about this collection is that each photograph tells a powerful narrative about the lives of these ordinary folks.  Truly, Avedon is a masterful storyteller.

The San Francisco MOMA’s Richard Avedon retrospective is definitely a must-see.  The exhibit runs until November 29th.  Here is a link to more information about the exhibit and other events at the MOMA.

Richard Avedon