"We all perform. It's what we do for each other all the time, deliberately or unintentionally. It's a way of telling about ourselves in the hope of being recognized as what we'd like to be."
Richard Avedon, 1974
The preeminent stars and artists of the performing arts from the second half of the 20th century offered their greatest giftsand, sometimes, their inner livesto Richard Avedon. More than 200 are portrayed in Performance, many in photographs that have been rarely or never seen before. Of course, the great stars light the way: Hepburn and Chaplin, Monroe and Garland, Brando and Sinatra. But here too are the actors and comedians, pop stars and divas, musicians and dancers, artists in all mediums with public lives that were essentially performances, who stand at the pinnacle of our cultural achievement.
About the Author
John Lahr is Senior Drama Critic of The New Yorker. In 2002, he was the first drama critic ever to win a Tony Award. Mike Nichols is an American Emmy Award, Academy Award, Grammy Award, and Tony Award–winning stage and film director, writer, and producer. André Gregory is an American director and actor. His best-known film appearance was as the title character in My Dinner with Andre. Mitsuko Uchida is a classical pianist, renowned for her recordings of Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert. Twyla Tharp is a leading American dancer and choreographer.
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By Richard Avedon
Copyright © 2008
André Gregory, John Lahr, Mike Nichols, Norma Stevens, Twyla Tharp, and Mitsuko Uchida
All right reserved.
Prologue Richard Avedon was mesmerized by performance. He would crisscross New York to see an unknown actor in a Beckett play and then on to catch a friend in Chekhov, or head to Stockholm for an O'Neill drama directed by Bergman in Swedish. His preoccupation with theater often prompted visits to the same play many nights in a row, accompanied by exhausted friends. Sometimes he brought along the entire studio staff, teaching, poking with his elbow, making sure we experienced the same things that moved him. Much of that enthusiasm made its way into his pictures.
At Avedon's side for nearly three decades I had the best job in the world: colleague, friend, voice of reason, accomplice. Overhearing the dialogue and observing the stagecraft behind the making of many of his photographs, I never tired of watching his performance.
Avedon worked every day, photographing, marking contacts, agonizing, changing his mind. Work was his exhilarant, a catalyst for ideas, inspiring images to be called upon as needed-an aging clown; a riotous theatrical troupe; an uncanny juxtaposition of arms, legs, and bodies that is a dance company. He looked with a reverent, unsentimental eye at performers, always acknowledging the craft and the complexity. The work was hard and he wasn't afraid to fail. It could also be joyous, as the recollections that follow by some of his collaborators will describe.
Avedon was encouraging but relentless-"Make it better. That's it. Wait. Ooh. One more. We got it."
Norma Stevens director The Richard Avedon Foundation
Excerpted from PerForMance by Richard Avedon Copyright © 2008 by André Gregory, John Lahr, Mike Nichols, Norma Stevens, Twyla Tharp, and Mitsuko Uchida. Excerpted by permission.
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