What Becomes a Legend Most A Biography of Richard Avedon

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The first definitive biography of Richard Avedon, a monumental photographer of the twentieth century, from award-winning photography critic Philip Gefter.

Richard Avedon photographed the most iconic figures of the twentieth century in a starkly bold, intimately minimal, and rigorously forensic visual style. His work for Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, and The New Yorker transformed ideals of women's fashion, culture, and femininity and became the defining look of an era. His portraits were exhibited in museums throughout the world. Yet, in Avedon's lifetime, he was condescendingly dismissed as a "celebrity photographer." 

What Becomes a Legend Most is the first definitive biography of this legend-an intensely driven man who endured personal and professional prejudice,  struggled with intense insecurities, and mounted  an existential lifelong battle to be recognized as an artist. Philip Gefter builds on archival research and exclusive interviews with those closest to Avedon to chronicle his story, beginning with his coming of age in New York between the World Wars, when cultural prejudices forced him to make decisions that shaped the course of his life. 

Compounding his private battles, Avedon fought to be taken seriously in a medium that itself struggled to be respected within the art world. Gefter reveals how the period of the 1950s and 1960s informed Avedon's life and work as much as he informed it. He became the center of a profoundly influential group of artists-Leonard Bernstein, Truman Capote, James Baldwin, Allen Ginsberg, Harold Brodkey, Sidney Lumet, and Mike Nichols-who shaped the cultural life of the American century. Yet, it wasn't until his fashion work was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the late 1970s that Avedon became a household name.

Balancing glamour with the gravitas of an artist's genuine reach for worldly achievement-and not a little gossip-What Becomes a Legend Most is an intimate window into Avedon's fascinating world. Dramatic, visionary, and remarkable, it pays tribute to Avedon's role in the history of photography and fashion and his legacy as one of the most consequential artists of our time.

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