9 Iconic Portraits by Photographer Richard Avedon, Now on Instagram

Some of the most iconic portraits of the 20th and 21st centuries were taken by photographer Richard Avedon. A self-proclaimed ‘reader of faces,’ Avedon revealed a lesser-seen side of his subjects with a cluck of the shutter. From Marilyn Monroe to James Baldwin, Avedon was an expert at capturing larger-than-life personalities. Without the distraction of props or set pieces, his photographs focused on revealing humanity at its core.

While Avedon passed away in 2004, his work lives on thanks in part to his foundation’s active Instagram account. Here are 10 portraits of American icons shared by the foundation. While most of the subjects have since passed away, many look like they could have been taken yesterday (and look perfectly at home on Instagram).

 

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Alfred Hitchcock, March 16, 1956 #richardavedon #alfredhitchcock

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Avedon’s bold charisma and curiosity made him adept at coaxing the most revealing aspects of his subjects’ personalities and translating them to film. The result was a stunning and intimate portrait. Avedon worked out his internal battles in the studio, confronting his fears through the act of pressing the shutter. What he revealed was the humanity of his subjects, no matter how private or high-profile. 

 

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James Baldwin, September 17, 1946. #richardavedon #jamesbaldwin

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Richard Avedon and James Baldwin were high school classmates and frequent collaborators. Here, a rare glimpse at a younger Baldwin.

 

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Avedon’s photographs are immediately striking. Shot on medium format negatives and printed to larger-than-life scale, every portrait contains details that would otherwise go unnoticed. A facial expression, a notion of posture, a gleam in the eye—all are displayed in stark relief against a studio white backdrop. In an Avedon picture, there is nowhere to hide.  

 

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Marilyn Monroe, May 22, 1958 #richardavedon #marilynmonroe

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Richard Avedon’s images were not intended to be typical, but intimate and provocative.  Though his subjects did not always see the beauty of his photographs, his legacy will remain as one of the most iconic portrait photographers of recent history.   

 

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Toni Morrison, New York City, September 10, 2003 . #richardavedon #tonimorrison @toni.morrison

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Andy Warhol, August 29, 1969 . #richardavedon #andywarhol @thewarholmuseum

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One of Avedon’s most well-known photographs is not of a famous public figure, but a beekeeper. Avedon sought out beekeeper Ronald Fischer to create this jarring photograph. The photo was achieved by spreading queen bee pheromone onto Fischer’s skin, attracting a swarm of bees to descend upon his body. The result is otherworldly.