November 19, 2008

Avedon in Berlin

For the last few days, we've been exploring the Prenzlauer Berg neighbourhood where our Berlin apartment is located. (We're now 3 for 3 on the craiglist apartment front - I'm convinced, it's the best way to go.) It's both strange and exciting to be back in Berlin, or the DDR as we like to think of it. Hard to believe this is the same city I tramped around in all those years ago when I was living in Germany as an exchange student - fortuitously the year the wall came down.
We ventured out today beyond the "Berg" to take in the Richard Avedon retrospective at the Martin-Gropius Bau. Some 250 images taken over his 60 year career spanning the early Harper's years, to Vogue, to the civil rights movement, to his seminal American West series, to his most famous celebrity portraits. I have to confess, I'm not a big fan of portrait photography. The less posed the image purports to be, the more contrived I tend to find it. What I love about Richard Avedon, beyond the obvious technical mastery is his candour about his chosen genre. "A portrait is not a likeness. The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion. There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth."

His subjects - the faces! the character! They just don't make 'em like this anymore. What a treat.

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