Brooke Shields on Richard Avedon’s Centennial—And That Infamous Calvin Klein Campaign
Released on 05/01/2023
I said, Thank you, Mr. Don.
And he said, Thank you, Drake.
We got out on the street
and my mom said, You called him Mr. Don.
And I said, Oh, okay.
And she said, And he called you Drake.
And I thought, Oh, great.
Well, we're even.
Hi, I'm Brooke Shields
and I'm gonna be taking you through
some of Richard Avedon's most iconic photographs.
Oh, I love this photo.
I remember the first time I saw this photo,
my mom had shown it to me.
This is a photograph featuring Suzy Parker.
She was a very, very famous model at the time
and worked a great deal with Richard Avedon.
And I think that he loved working with Suzy Parker,
because she was not only so beautiful,
but a willing subject,
willing to have fun,
willing to throw herself into the environment.
And I can imagine him lying on the ground
sort of looking up
to make them larger than life,
and him instructing them to be joyous,
and have fun, and be playful.
Oh, I have this photo in my living room.
This is one of the most beautiful,
iconic photos of Marilyn Monroe,
in my opinion, ever taken.
And it came to be known as Sad Marilyn.
And what I find so fascinating about it is
that Dick Avedon was able
to shoot many other photographs in this series,
but that this came at the end,
at a moment when it was clear
that she felt comfortable enough
to fully let her guard down.
I think Avedon was always very intent
on capturing duality in his subjects,
sort of a truth and a mask at the same time.
And I think it became something
that many people trusted in him.
He photographed so many very important iconic figures
and he shot their portraits,
and in each one of them,
you see a side of the person
we might not necessarily have seen.
This is Donyale Luna
and she was a very important model at the time.
Avedon decided to choose Luna for a spread
in a guest edited issue of Harper's Bazaar in 1965.
It was very controversial.
He was not meant to feature a black model.
Doing this was unheard of at the time
and after all the criticism that he received,
he decided to leave Harper's Bazaar and move to Vogue.
Audrey Hepburn, this is a fascinating photograph
and a fascinating period of time,
I believe, in Avedon's life,
because he wanted to play with our image of beauty.
He got this inspiration from looking at contact sheets
and really sort of realizing the limitations
of photography in and of itself.
I grew up being told by my mother
that she was the most beautiful woman in the world
and Richard Avedon felt the same.
He was quoted as saying,
The second the color leaves her face,
I know she's ready to work.
He would wait just long enough
for whoever you walked in as to leave your face.
What he was saying about Veruschka,
I think is very important in understanding him,
because in my opinion,
he always had a strong contradiction within him
and in every photo.
Twiggy, I love Twiggy.
This photograph was all about the hair, and it was a wig.
Ara Gallant was the hairdresser for this photo.
He was very known for the movement of hair.
And what's interesting is
you feel the movement in the hair
by way of the light that Richard Avedon uses,
and yet her face is almost frozen in time,
and there's this youthful quality
to the way the light hits her sweet, beautiful face.
And then there's this power that's in the hair
and that's all shown with light.
Twiggy said of this photo,
that when she saw the photograph,
she felt that it was the first time
that she had been photographed truly as a woman
and not just a teenage cookie
as she came to know herself.
I remember being taken to his studio
after school with my mom.
I had already done Pretty Baby and had been a model,
but I remember seeing this photograph of myself
and being so shocked,
because it was unlike any other photograph I had seen
He did capture something that I wasn't giving him per se.
This to me is color drained from a face
and yet you see something going on in the eyes.
Okay, oh, me again.
This was one of my 14 Vogue covers.
We started getting into a different mentality
with regards to covers,
really looking down the barrel of the lens.
Nobody was allowed in the studio.
He would pick a song that he knew I loved
and blasted repeatedly.
I think the song was Upside Down by Diana Ross.
I was obsessed with it, and he knew that,
and it was as if it was this bizarre mantra
where we went into this other world for a little while,
and he never overshot.
He didn't keep you there forever.
You know, eight, 10 clicks, maybe 12,
and then that was it, we moved on.
And more of me.
The world needs more of me.
Well, this photograph changed the course of my life,
and what I always felt was,
even though this was full body to me,
the expression is still locked into Dick.
It was groundbreaking.
It was shocking to people.
It was accompanied with a whole series of commercials,
drawing upon literary references,
and specific verbiage, and Darwinism.
By natural selection,
which filters out those genes better equipped than others
to endure in the environment.
This whole campaign really lost in controversy
based on the interpretation of one commercial
in which I ask a rhetorical question.
You wanna know what comes between me and my Calvins?
Oh, the uproar.
All the puritanical America was
just gonna jump down our throats
and tell us how inappropriate we were.
All of the dialogue in these commercials
were designed to have duality in them
and that's what also made them unique.
But to single out just that one line
and not even understand it in the context
with within which it was meant,
felt very narrow to me.
Okay, this is a beautiful and iconic photograph
of a friend of mine, Natassja Kinski, with a snake,
and then at the last minute,
he captures the snake licking her ear.
It was the most incredible photograph
and poster that sold out.
If there was an Internet, it would've broken the Internet.
I think the symbolism of having this photo with her
really signified the Garden of Eden and Eve,
and sort of the fall of man,
and the power of the female.
There's such innocence and sexuality.
Her face is so relaxed, and so beautiful, and so in control,
and that was what he could do.
He could do that, and I'm sure this was just one click.
Oh, I loved this campaign.
I think this definitely sort of represents
and embodies a lot of what Versace was able to do,
and what Richard Avedon was able to bring to life.
The new version of a modern woman who was very sexy,
but also with the colors and the pastels,
and the pinks, and the miniskirts, and the socks.
There's also this playful sort of nudging
of this sort of voyage from innocence to experience.
Okay, this is a beautiful portrait of Kate Moss.
She's young and youthful,
but she is so strong and so sexy at the same time.
I think this was so clearly a brilliant evolution
from my Calvin era,
and this was the new CK era.
It's so vastly different than what we shot
and it had to be,
but, yet again, he was able to reinvent
and discover a very new, fresh way of looking at something.
It reflects a huge change that was happening
in the way we saw advertising
and in the way the envelope was being pushed,
but in a very different way,
in a very in your face way,
and the fact that it's black and white
versus the color of the 80s,
and the stripping away of everything, but the subject.
I love his self-portraits.
This says what a true artist he was.
He was always thinking, always pensive,
always introspective, always searching for more,
for real, for surprise, for unique, for one of a kind.
He was stubborn and passionate,
and so focused and so driven,
and such a perfectionist.
You can just see it.
I love where he's got his eyes closed.
That signifies to me that maybe he just was blinking,
but that's just him behind his eyes.
His eyes are everything,
because they always saw us, and revealed us and people.
Well, that's it for this.
I hope you've enjoyed taking this journey with me
through some of Richard Avedon's most iconic photographs.
Happy Birthday, Dick,
or should I say, Mr. Don?
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