28 October 2004

Avedon's Democracy

Richard Avedon died September 25 in San Antonio, a handful of images away from completing his Democracy portfolio for the New Yorker. But the November 1 issue has 50 images across its 32 pages, and it's mostly wonderful. The opening spread's Statue of Liberty-costumed Kucinich delegate is sweet and striking; juxtaposing the eyebrows-raised smirk of Bill O'Reilly with the snakeheaded mischief of James Carville is clever; Jon Stewart's one-handed, slouch-eyed variation on Munch's "The Scream" precedes a pudgy-jowled Karl Rove, working the choirboy smile; an injured Army Sergeant's burnt, stalwart face is sized against Sean Penn's obstinate mug; the penultimate spread is strong black-and-whites of young soldiers; and it concludes (pages 90-91) with the two largest headshots of the series, two earnest politicians wearing white shirts against Avedon's trademark white seamless, two grownups looking serene and angelic, a pairing of images so striking and right that my eyes well with water again with the spread here in front of me, Jimmy Carter, 80, and Barack Obama, 43.