Review by Gerhard Clausing •
What does a sorcerer’s apprentice observe over a sixteen-year period? Avedon was certainly a flamboyant creator, and Lewin, his assistant, became an amazing artist in his own right. In this attractive photobook we are taken on a photographic journey, supplemented by verbal narrative, that documents those years of collaboration.
Gideon Lewin, among the many verbal and visual contributions describing the uniquely talented Avedon, quotes Ruth Ansel, among many others: “Dick Avedon was a genius. He was a photographer with a passion for perfection. He was also known as a consummate risk-taker.” This is the theme that marks this photobook – a strong testament to a fruitful collaboration that had many moments of creative improvisation, carried to stellar conclusions with astuteness and flair. Lewin describes many special moments between the two, and the stories he tells are enjoyable reading, along with the images depicting a variety of studio and outdoor sets that convey an atmosphere resembling theatrical performances.
Lewin arranges his book in four parts to reflect both the genesis of the work and his relationship with Avedon: Indoctrination – Managing the Avedon studio – The Avedon Woman – Avedon and the Institutions. We are given a grand tour of the many details in methodology and special procedures used by the master photographer known as Avedon, icon in the art and fashion worlds. There is no doubt that Lewin feels deep respect, is even in awe of his employer, while at the same time keeping us firmly grounded in reality.
The images in this photobook are printed very large and appear with a very dynamic flow in the overall sequencing. Many horizontals are printed as full-bleed double pages, and are easy to appreciate, given the size of 20 x 13 inches (51 x 33 cm). This lets the viewer experience the grand style of such work. Lewin demonstrates his expertise in photographic documentation and portraiture: the images of work situations themselves are also a reflection of Avedon’s style, while the portraits are astute observations of what motivates and drives both Avedon and his well-known models. Also noteworthy are moments of collaborative teaching with Diane Arbus and others, the portrait with a mask series, one of which is shown on the cover, as well as photographs of Avedon with portraits of his father. We are also provided with interesting inside views of the planning of shows for galleries and museums.
This book ably demonstrates that documenting the creation of art is also an artistic process. Gideon Lewin, the ‘apprentice,’ also has a magical touch. This lavishly produced monograph is the evidence.
Gideon Lewin – Avedon: Behind the Scenes 1964-1980
Photographer: Gideon Lewin (born in Jerusalem, Israel; lives in New York, USA)
Publisher: powerHouse Books, Brooklyn, NY, USA; © 2019
Essay: Gideon Lewin; selected quotes
Hardback with illustrated dust cover; sewn; 220 pages, paginated; 10.25 x 13.25 inches (26 x 34 cm); printed and bound in China
Photobook Designer: Camille Dubois
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