Brooke Shields on Richard Avedon’s Centennial—And That Infamous Calvin Klein Campaign
One icon illuminates the work of another when Brooke Shields sits down with Vogue for a special “Life in Looks” marking the centennial of Richard Avedon’s birth, which takes us roughly from the photographer’s Funny Face era to a few years before his death in 2004.
The iconic images Shields talks through express a range of emotions, including joy (Suzy Parker and Robin Tattersall roller skating in Paris, 1956) and melancholy (his “Sad Marilyn” of 1957). A 14-time Vogue cover girl, Shields speaks from experience. Reacting to a 1978 portrait Avedon took of her for an issue of the magazine, she recalls: “I remember being taken to his studio after school with my mom. I had already done Pretty Baby and had been a model, but I remember seeing this photograph of myself and being so shocked, because it was unlike any other photograph I had seen of myself. He did capture something that I wasn’t giving him per se.”
Avedon had an eye for composition and the ability to illuminate his sitters’ essences in ways that related to the larger cultural zeitgeist. As Shields puts it: “I think Avedon was always very intent on capturing duality in his subjects, sort of a truth and a mask at the same time.” This contextualization contributes to the power of the photographer’s work.
In Shields’s view, the inability of the public to see the big picture is what created the tempest in a teapot around her 1980 Calvin Klein jeans campaign with Avedon. The print ads, she explains, were “accompanied with a whole series of commercials, drawing upon literary references, and specific verbiage, and Darwinism… All of the dialogue in these commercials was designed to have duality and that’s what also made them unique. But to single out just that one line [“You wanna know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing] and not even understand it in the context within which it was meant, felt very narrow to me.”
One hundred years after his birth, Avedon’s work continues to open our eyes and widen our worldviews through photographs that capture important moments. He grasped the uniqueness of his sitters, while highlighting our common humanity.
Avedon 100 is on view at the Gagosian through June 24, 2023.
Director: Nina Ljeti
Director Of Photography: Emmanuella Zachariou
Editors: Matt Colby, Sammy Cortino
Producer: Qieara Lesesne
Associate Director, Creative Development, Vogue: Alexandra Gurvitch
Associate Producer: Natalie Harris
AC: Paola Oliveros
Gaffer: Collin Chiucchini
Set Designer: Elaine Winter
Set Design Assistant: Savannah Galvin
Audio: Sean Paulsen
Production Coordinator: Ava Kashar
Production Manager: Kit Fogarty
Line Producer: Romeeka Powell
Senior Director, Production Management: Jessica Schier
Assistant Editor: Andy Morell
Supervising Editor: Kameron Key
Post Production Supervisor: Edward Taylor
Global Talent Casting Director: Ignacio Murillo
Director of Content, Production, Vogue: Rahel Gebreyes
Senior Director, Programming, Vogue: Linda Gittleson
Executive Producer: Ruhiya Nuruddin
VP, Digital Video English, Vogue: Thespena Guatieri
Filmed at Hôtel Barrière Fouquet’s New York
Photographs by Richard Avedon © The Richard Avedon Foundation
Originally Appeared on Vogue