Gift of the photographer to Hal Adams, 1960s
By descent to the present owners
Other prints of this image:
Richard Avedon: Evidence, 1944-1994 (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1994, in conjunction with the exhibition), p. 53
Michael Juul Holm, ed., Richard Avedon - Photographs 1946-2004 (Humlebæk: Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2007, in conjunction with the exhibition), p. 35
Richard Avedon, Woman in the Mirror (New York, 2005), p. 37
Keith F. Davis, An American Century of Photographs from Dry-Plate to Digital (The Hallmark Photographic Collection, 1999), p. 368
Nancy Hall-Duncan, The History of Fashion Photography (George Eastman House, 1979), p. 137
This early large-format print of Richard Avedon's most celebrated fashion image, Dovima with Elephants, pre-dates the variously formatted editions of the photograph which were begun in 1976. The print offered here was given by Avedon to the photographer Hal Adams in the 1960s, whose Los Angeles studio Avedon used on a number of occasions in that decade.
No other fashion photograph within Avedon's large and accomplished oeuvre is as recognized as Dovima with Elephants, and no other photograph illustrates as fully Avedon's gifts as a photographer of couture and of women. The brilliant juxtaposition of the quintessentially elegant Dovima—clothed in a dress designed by the young Yves Saint-Laurent for the House of Dior—with the massive rough forms of elephants was revolutionary when it was first published in the September 1955 issue of Harper's Bazaar in 'Carmel Snow's Paris Report.' With this photograph, Avedon set a standard for inventiveness in fashion photography that has not been surpassed in the intervening years.
Several features of this print indicate that it was almost certainly made from the original 8-by-10-inch negative, now in the archives of the Richard Avedon Foundation. The most obvious of these is the irregular shape in the upper left portion of the image which corresponds directly to the same shape on the original negative; this area was retouched out of later, editioned prints of the image. It is very likely that the editioned photographs were printed from a copy negative made from a fully-retouched master print. By contrast, the print offered here represents one of very few extant prints of the image made from Avedon's original negative.
The original recipient of this photograph, Hal Adams, was a commercial photographer active in Los Angeles in the 1950s, '60s, and '70s. Born in New Jersey, Adams studied at the Art Students League in New York. He moved to Los Angeles in the 1950s in the hope of becoming a cinematographer. When work in the film industry failed to materialize, he turned to still photography. Adams produced advertising images for Ford, Chevrolet, and Lincoln, and photographed celebrities such as Fred Astaire, Cole Porter, Johnny Cash, and Nancy Reagan for a variety of magazines. He is perhaps best known as one of the first photographers for Playboy magazine. In addition to Richard Avedon, Adams counted photographers Helmut Newton and Matthew Rolston among his friends.
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