American West photo series


(1) In the American West photo series by famous photographer, Richard Avedon, took portraits of individuals in the West. The portraits seemed simple enough, however, the techniques that he used were f


In the American West photo series by famous photographer, Richard Avedon, took portraits of individuals in the West. The portraits seemed simple enough, however, the techniques that he used were far from that. I could imagine that having the opportunity of viewing these portraits in person would have been breathtaking as the books do not give it enough justice. Mr. Avedon was probably not well known in the areas that he visited while photographing those individuals that were from different aspects of life. At the time of this event, Mr. Avedon was a well-known, and respected photographer. I was surprised to see that Mr. Avedon attended the Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup and was able to capture many of his portraits during that specific event. I have attended that event once, and there are many interesting people you see which is what Mr. Avedon did. Mr. Avedon took portraits of individuals that most people would probably not have the nerve of approaching and asking if a picture could be taken. Mr. Avedon’s series had some controversy as some people felt as he was perhaps making fun of the people he photographed. Mr. Avedon was able to build a rapport with the individuals he photographed by talking to them, befriending them, and Mr. Avedon was respectful towards them. I believe this was enough to allow him to photograph them.

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Mr. Avedon’s technique was more complicated than most people could comprehend specially if they were not professional photographers. Mr. Avedon chose to use a neutral background which I perceive that it made these portraits more stimulating. Concerning the portrait of Petra Alvarado “factory worker” that was taken on her birthday in 1982, Mr. Avedon used organic shapes instead of geometric shapes. Geometric shapes are more man made and organic shapes are shapes that are more naturalistic shapes such as these portrait(s). As for the black frame, I would consider that to be the only geometric aspect of the portraits.

Mr. Avedon used of positive space in these portraits would refer to subject of the picture and the position of the individual which is in the middle of the portrait. The negative space which would be the background which is neutral therefore making the main focus the actual image of the person in the portrait.

The element of contrast in Mr. Avedon’s portraits would be the color, or lack or color, in this case of the portraits. Also, the lighting would be another type of contrast used. I believe that Mr. Avedon’s choice of several contrast choices made these portraits more appealing, special, and unique.


The American West photo series was conceived when 1974, Avedon began having serious heart inflammations which took a toll on his health. This situation motivated Avedon to rethink his photography style hence he took on the American West project which shifted his focus from public figures to ordinary American people telling a story in each through the art. The project encompassed white neutral backgrounds in large portraits. The American West photo series was received with a lot of appreciation because it helped to turn around the stories of the ordinary persons who agreed to be photographed for the better.

In the image provided, the geometric shapes are given by the cash since it has a regular appearance of a rectangle (is artificial). On the other hand, the woman is a representation of an organic shape since it has pentagonal symmetry, enclosing her body in legs, and arm stretched out in a pentagon, and each vertex connects with the body at the head. In terms of positive spaces, the woman, Petra Alvarado, in the image plus the cash she holds form this space as they are the subject of interest. The negative space in this case is the white background shown. The image has a normal contrast because there is a balance between black, white, and gray colors.

The thick border lines Robert Avedon used in his photographed images function as real edges for his 8×10 negatives used for his 1970s portraits he had made of famous persons. They also function as works in their own right, and not just accompaniments in the images by becoming part of the décor. This is after Rolling Stone Magazine ordered 69 portraits of the same artistic design and published them with the black frames.