LEICA WOMEN FOTO PROJECT AWARD 2019 Her Legacy Interview with Elizabeth Avedon

 "fossil of light + time" Cover photo: Sean Perry
Detroit Center for Contemporary Photography

 Avedon: 1947–1977 
Farrar, Straus + Giroux, 1978

"Borne Back" Tintypes by Victoria Will
Peanut Press Books, 2019

"Vintage Contemporary Artists" Interview Series
Elizabeth Avedon Editions/ Random House, 1978

"I want photographers to be courageous and strive to create consistent work. Their personal stories, passions, and vision will ensure the work is seen as uniquely their own." 

Leica Women Project  Her Legacy: Elizabeth Avedon
Independent curator, photo book and exhibition designer, Elizabeth Avedon, shares her perspective as an industry leader in the world of photography.

1. What drives your commitment to the art of photography?

Having worked with many of photography’s past icons, I am now interested in the work of emerging photographers who will someday shape the future of photography. I continue to be drawn to the magic of photography, and I love the surprise of how each new generation of photographers bring their own uniqueness to elevate us to a new and unseen realm.

2. What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered in the world of photography?

I was fortunate to begin my career working and socializing with some of the most successful photographers and art directors of their time - although being very young I wasn’t aware of how lucky I was. The challenge came 15 years later when I became over saturated with photography and turned my attentions towards contemporary painters creating a set of interview books for Random House with contemporary artists including Robert Rauschenberg and Louise Bourgeois. Not finding the ‘art world’ to be more enlightening than photography, I then worked with some well-known photographers in advertising and fashion, on print magazines and the early world of online photo magazines.

Feeling I’d explored all New York had to offer, I moved to New Mexico briefly where I was Gallery Director at Photo-eye. While living in Santa Fe, I attended several very inspiring talks by photo dealers, David Scheinbaum and Janet Russek, at their gallery Scheinbaum & Russek. Early in their careers, Janet had assisted Eliot Porter and David worked with and printed for the preeminent photography scholar, Beaumont Newhall, as well as Ansel Adams. One night a month they invited photographers and collectors into their gallery, sharing antidotes from their past experiences and passing around extraordinary vintage prints by some of histories most iconic image makers.

I returned to New York re-inspired and with a renewed outlook and appreciation for the new up-and-coming generation of photographers, which has only grown exponentially each year since.

3. Of all the projects you have worked on, which one left an indelible impression on your current point of view?

It started with Richard Avedon’s fashion retrospective book and exhibition, “Avedon: 1949–1979”, I designed for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1979. What I learned crafting that eight year project, gave me the tools to work with throughout my career. The project began in the years before computers and digital files, taking a team of darkroom printers many years round-the-clock to print contact sheets of all of Avedon’s fashion shoots from over 40 years. The contact sheets were in chronological order in endless cartons and took several years to edit with RA, then creating an extensive book dummy. I redesigned the space at the Met, the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts and several other museums across the country and Japan for the accompanying exhibition. I was able to tap into the lessons learned from that experience when designing Avedon's “In The American West” exhibition to fit the Amon Carter Museum’s unique architectural design, as well as refitting the show for the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the High Museum in Atlanta, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Phoenix Art Musem and others.

4. Who are some of the photographers (deceased or living) that inspire your perspective and approach to photography?

I was fortunate to have had Tod Papageorge as my first photography instructor, as he was such a traditionalist and a Leica lover. Papageorge later held the position of Director of Graduate Study in Photography at Yale for over 3o years, and received two Guggenheim Fellowships and two NEA Visual Artists Fellowships. In his world there were only a few true photographers worth studying – Henri Cartier-Bresson, Brassai, Atget, Koudelka, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, and his best friend, Garry Winogrand.

I was also influenced by the work of Dorothea Lange, Bernice Abbott, Helen Levitt and now Vivian Maier. Inspiring to me for different reasons and in different ways are Sally Mann, Mona Kuhn, Carrie Mae Weems, Maggie Steber, Ruddy Roye, Julie Blackmon and many more contemporary photographers too numerous to name.

5. Based on your experiences in the world of art & culture, what advice would you give the next generation of photographers?

It might sound like a cliché, but anyone can copy something currently popular. I want photographers to be courageous and strive to create consistent work unlike anyone else’s. Their personal stories, passions, and vision will ensure the work is seen as uniquely their own.

6. Are there topics you have not yet seen covered, that you feel are important to explore?

What I most want to explore are the photographs that are unique, the ones you can't quite explain that call to be looked at again and again.

7. In your opinion, how does photography impact culture, and vice versa?

As one of my mentor’s Jean Jacques Naudet, L’Oeil de la Photographie Editorial Director, said to me in an interview, “Photography has never been as fashionable as now. Photography has replaced the verb in communication. In fact, Photography IS the communication now.”

I believe photography has always informed us how to see the physicality of our experience. In turn, that familiarity allows us to deepen our awareness and connect back with new understanding. Photographs are the cultural road markers forward.

8. What is one piece of advice you would offer to applicants of the Leica Women Foto Project award?

Pay attention to each individual image you submit. So often in competitions, I will see work by exceptional photographers I’ve met at a Portfolio Review whose work is terrific; however, the work they submitted to the competition is mediocre, or the images don’t work with each other. Remember, each image is new to the juror and should support and propel your project forward. 

Get a closer look on Elizabeth Avedon's perspective on photography: 

Continue the journey with Elizabeth on social media:

In The American West: Richard Avedon
Harry N. Abrams, 1985

 Portraits: Richard Avedon
Farrar Straus + Giroux, 1976

Call For Entries is Open to August 29, 2019

The first LEICA WOMEN FOTO PROJECT AWARD, dedicated to the female perspective and its impact on visual storytelling. In support of diversity in photography, Leica CameraUSA is seeking 3 photographers to receive $10,000 + 1 year loan of a Leica Q2 to support a personal project expressed through the female perspective.

Applicants will be reviewed on the basis of quality of photography, dedication to the medium of photography, sophistication of project, with narratives that broaden perspectives, ideas and conversations on today’s social and political climate.

 MORE INFO: https://bit.ly/LeicaWomen

Applications will be judged by a renowned panel of industry voices including:

Karin Kaufmann: Art Director & Chief Representative, Leica Galleries International
Maggie Steber: VII Agency photographer and Guggenheim fellow
Laura Roumanos: Executive producer and co-founder, United Photo Industries
Elizabeth Avedon: Independent curator, photo book and exhibition designer
Deborah Willis: University professor and Chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and author of Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery 

Candidates for the award are requested to submit a series of 10 images from a personal or long-term project, made on any digital or film camera of any make, model or brand, with at least 4 images created between 2018-19. Alongside the images, applicants are required to submit a 500 word proposal describing their personal project and its relevance in today’s social climate, including detail of how the funds will be allocated.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Void where prohibited and outside US.  Must be legal US resident 21+ at entry, and must not be affiliated with competitor of Sponsor. Entry must adhere to Submission Guidelines. Winner may not partner with competitor of Sponsor for 1 year.  

Official Rules http://bit.ly/LeicaWomenFotoProjectRules
MORE INFO: https://bit.ly/LeicaWomen

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