Just like his grandfather Richard, the fashion photographer has a penchant for portraits, and his latest project captures perfumers alongside meaningful objects.
If you have been waiting for a chic new perspective on how to visualize scent, look no further than Michael Avedon’s latest project. The photographer, who has made a name for himself throughout the past decade with his fashion collaborations and insightful portraiture, has collaborated with the Fragrance Foundation on a series celebrating 15 perfumers’ creative visions for Fragrance Day.
To visually capture the esteemed noses’ olfactory concepts, Avedon broke from his typical approach and experimented with using objects the subjects loved, a concept he credits to Linda G. Levy, the president of the Fragrance Foundation. This challenge allowed him to explore new ways to frame each shot, getting the geometric look just right to communicate the essence of the perfumers.
“It was quite spontaneous,” Avedon said of the concept. “Some objects were more challenging than others. But basically, I just talked with them. Just exchanges, trying to figure out more about their identities and who they are.”
The photographer’s method produced a lively series, in which each fragrance master poses next to their beloved item warmly and in color. Each photo helps to break the barrier between the fragrance brands’ public images and the artists behind the scenes, a strategy that Levy finds inspiring.
“We admire his extraordinary ability to relate to his subjects behind the camera and be able to capture their individual personalities,” Levy said of working with Avedon. “He is the natural choice to shine the spotlight on this acclaimed group of perfumers.”
Avedon has come a long way from his grandfather Richard’s legacy to an in-demand photographer in his own right, meaning it’s more exciting than ever to learn what goes on in his creative mind. To celebrate his new portrait series launching today, the young creative opened up about making scent visual, finding inspiration, and his favorite fragrance.
What drew you to collaborate with the Fragrance Foundation?
I did a fragrance campaign a couple of years ago for the revamp of Norman Norell with Five Star Fragrance, and Linda [Levy] was a head of Parlux there. I met her through Pat Werblin, and I just was drawn to their enthusiasm.
What’s the biggest thing that you learned from working on this project?
That perfumers are true scientists, and they have extreme discipline and a powerful work ethic.
What do you think is the impact of sight and fragrance, both through this project and in general?
You have to try to capture the mood of the scent. The feeling, the dream, whatever the perfumer and the brand is trying to sell and produce. So if a certain scent is about, say, freedom, you can capture that in many ways. From movement to excitement to dramatic lighting, the possibilities are endless. So I think the great challenge is visually capturing a scent, which comes from our emotions. All these perfumers essentially are inspired by their own emotions, so it comes from within, and that is the essence of photography. It’s capturing humanity. So it’s about relating the two in ways, and capturing the essence of what that perfumer or brand wants to sell photographically. So it could be desire, dreams, romance, whatever it may be. It’s an incredible challenge.
What’s your favorite fragrance?
I think it has to be Comme des Garçons’ Wonderwood. Because it hits my senses and it does something. We love certain candles, we love certain paintings by Rembrandt. Our sense faculties just get beautifully overwhelmed with excitement, and I think when I came across that scent, I was just totally taken by its hypnotic qualities. You’re the grandson of Richard Avedon but have become an established fashion photographer on your own merit.
How do you blend your grandfather’s legacy with your own creative ideas?
I think it’s really important to try to cultivate your own voice in the process. [Like my grandfather], I photograph people, so I followed similarly in his footsteps through a pure passion for and interest in humanity. I was always interested in certain poets and painters I wanted to photograph, and then I got into the world of fashion, which was very exciting because it’s similar to portraiture. I think as opposed to blending, it’s good to study the great work that came before you, and then through all of that study, work on cultivating your own eye and your own voice through endless photographs. Just constantly photograph. I picked up a camera because I was truly drawn to it and people, and I think the best thing to do is to photograph as much as possible.
How has your work evolved since the start of your career?
When I first picked up a camera, I was just taking snapshots of friends. Since then, I got more interested in the psychological component of portraiture, as well as selling the dream in fashion by creating beautiful illusions and narratives on set photographically. More set-oriented narratives. The psychology in my portraiture has evolved, and fashion is an ongoing experience. I’m still learning more about it, and it’s been an incredible run, and I think we always should be in a state of evolving. We should never arrive. Hopefully, the more you photograph, the better the work is going to become.
What advice would you have for someone else who’s trying to start a career in photography?
Take endless photographs, and study the masters. Study Diane Arbus, study Edward Weston, study my grandfather, study Irving Penn, study Cartier-Bresson, study Lartigue. Just absorb the great imagery that has been left to our eyes, and from there, just constantly photograph. Follow your enthusiasms. Follow what drives you. I picked up a camera because I wanted to meet certain poets and painters that I admired.
So I think just endless, endless action. What’s next for you? Do you have any other projects in the works?
I’m working on a few things. I’m starting a portrait series with the fashion editor and stylist, Christopher Niquet. We’re doing a project called 65 Central Park West, where he’ll be interviewing certain subjects and I’ll be photographing them.
Where do you look for inspiration?
All over the place. The Frick, people walking down the street, literature. You can’t subject yourself to one world because we live in an incredible world of imagination, so whether it be a Bob Dylan song or a Fragonard painting at the Frick or Comme des Garçons’ Wonderwood fragrance, it can come in many forms. Be open to its beauty, because there’s so much inspiration out there.
SOURCE: L’Officiel USA