A Photographer’s Famous Subjects Reflect at Gagosian’s ‘Avedon 100’ Afterparty

Richard Avedon is himself famous for revolutionizing fashion photography by encouraging his subjects to come to life instead of sticking to standards.

A woman with blond hair carrying a large handbag and wearing a tan coat smiles while holding an older woman's hand and two people hug in the foreground.
Derek Blasberg, Sienna Miller, Mark Guiducci, Anna Wintour Ben Rosser/BFA.com

We were an hour or so into the after-party for Thursday night’s opening of the Gagosian exhibition celebrating Richard Avedon’s centennial when Jesse Paris Smith—the multihyphenate daughter of Patti Smith—asked me to pull up Google.

Neither of us could quite believe that Avedon’s portrait of her legendary mother for a 2000 New Yorker story was taken not when the legendary musician and poet was, as Paris Smith believed, around her age of 35, but in her sixties. Upon reflection, it made sense; even though they’re four decades apart, the mother-daughter duo talks as if they’re peers.

“Avedon could have captured her looking like she was in her sixties in that image,” Paris Smith said. “Instead—and I think it’s really cool—he captured who she is.”

Two older people, a woman on the left and a man on the right, in casual dress look at the camera.
Patti Smith, Michael Stipe Neil Rasmus/BFA.com
A woman with dark hair and headphones around her neck smiles at a dark haired woman to the right. Two men, both smiling, stand to the left.
Tyler Mitchell, Diana Silvers Neil Rasmus/BFA.com

No small feat for a photographer—and a perfect example of why it was no surprise that nearly 1,200 people showed up for the opening of Richard Avedon 100 earlier in the evening.

Of course, these weren’t just any guests. Anna Wintour brought her daughter, Bee Shaffer.

An older woman with a striking bob and dark sunglasses stands in front of a black and white image of a woman dancing in front of elephants.
Anna Wintour Ben Rosser/BFA.com

Wintour took turns with Karlie Kloss posing in front of Avedon’s iconic Dovima with Elephants.

A model with dark hair wearing a black dress with several cutouts stands in front of a white wall featuring several black and white portraits.
Karlie Kloss Ben Rosser/BFA.com

Derek Blasberg (who helped organize the exhibition and enlist its many celebrity curators) posed with practically everyone, including Iman, Sofia Coppola, Sienna Miller, Gigi Hadid and Precious Lee.

Three people, a woman, a man, and another woman, stand in front of a white wall with hung black and white portraits.
Precious Lee, Derek Blasberg, Gigi Hadid Ben Rosser/BFA.com

Meanwhile, gallery goers from Salman Rushdie to Lauren Hutton to Smith seized photo ops with their very own Avedon portraits.

An older man wearing glasses with one lens blacked out stands in front of a hung black and white portrait of a man in a black jacket.
Salman Rushdie Ben Rosser/BFA.com

“He had a very similar technique to Robert,” the latter told me, referring to the other most famous photographer to capture her, Robert Mapplethorpe. “He just told me a few different commands—how he would like me to hold my hands and just lift my chin a little, and we took the picture.”

An older woman in a green hat, tan jacket and yellow sweater points at a portrait of herself as a younger woman in a frame hung on a wall.
Lauren Hutton Ben Rosser/BFA.com

Tucked away in the most distant corner of the opening afterparty at the Standard’s Boom Boom Room, Pat Cleveland was eager to reflect on the decades she spent posing in front of Avedon’s camera. The late great is famous for revolutionizing fashion photography by encouraging models to come to life instead of sticking to standards and staying stiff—but the way Cleveland tells it, they were mainly a select few such as Veruschka, Penelope Tree and herself.

A woman with dark hair dressed all in black does a dance move in front of a portrait of a model dancing.
Pat Cleveland Ben Rosser/BFA.com

“He would just sort of… And now let’s go!,” Cleveland recalled of Avedon’s instructions accompanying his then rare usage of large shutter speed. “And we’d run to one side of the room and keep going and going, back and forth, like a gazelle escaping from a lion.”

She isn’t surprised to hear that Gagosian’s exhibition presents a rare opportunity for media outlets to run more than just a few Avedon images. “Things are so disposable now,” she said. “And precious things have to be really well taken care of.”

Tyler Mitchell, Precious Lee Neil Rasmus/BFA.com

Even in mediums some may consider disposable, Avedon continues to get his due. Blasberg noted that one of today’s biggest names in fashion photography, the duo Inez & Vinoodh, just directly paid homage in their series of behind-the-scenes Met Gala portraits posted to Instagram. “That was Monday,” he said while reflecting on Avedon’s enduring influence. “You can’t get more contemporary than this week.”

Tory Burch, Lazaro Hernandez Neil Rasmus/BFA.com
Larry Gagosian, Michael Avedon Neil Rasmus/BFA.com
A Photographer’s Famous Subjects Reflect at Gagosian’s ‘Avedon 100’ Afterparty