En stor retrospektiv utstilling av Richard Avedons bilder åpner i International Center of Photography i New York (15. mai – 6. september). Avedon hadde «flair». Det må man ha for å bli en stor fotograf.

HE was keenly aware that beauty had an element of tragedy — it faded, for one thing, or it came at a terrible loss of self. Growing up, Avedon heard his mother say to his sister Louise, who would eventually die, at 42, in a mental institution, «You’re so beautiful you don’t have to open your mouth.» This notion that beauty can be intoxicating but, equally, impoverishing to the soul, Ms. Squiers said, tinged Avedon’s early pictures with a feeling of compassion.

And it may never have completely left him. A photograph he made in 1998 of a robotic-looking model wearing a mouth plug seemed to circle back to his sister. Such pictures, made when he was a staff photographer at The New Yorker, suggested Avedon’s long view of fashion, but also a distinct side of his personality. «There was a real sadness about him,» said Norma Stevens, who joined his studio in 1976 and today runs the Richard Avedon Foundation. «He loved working, and he would be up for that. But it was like a performance. After that there would be a drop.»

How Avedon Blurred His Own Image