FIT hosts some of the most fascinating fashion-biz lectures and book signings in New York City, but last night's discussion with photographer Gideon Lewin — who assisted Richard Avedon during his most prolific period— drew an unusually large crowd, with seats packed on both levels of the auditorium.
Lewin's lecture was timed with the release of his new book, "Avedon: Behind the Scenes," which includes never-before-seen images of Avedon on set and in his studio.
"My most exhilarating moments were on set, when we were working as a team," said Lewin, who was largely responsible for creating Avedon's lighting concepts, exhibition prints, and elaborate sets. "In my mind, I could anticipate the moment he would snap the shot." Lewin was also responsible for the psychedelic colors in Avedon's iconic portraits of the Beatles, for which he made use of his "solarizing" skills.
Stories behind some of Avedon's most famous works (there was, for example, a terrible stain on the original negative for "Dovima with the Elephants," which Lewin found a way to reproduce) were highlights of the evening, in particular the one about Russian model, Veruschka — described by Lewin as a "giant" with a size 13 shoe — who they shot on a snowy Japanese mountainside.
"We needed a companion for her," said Lewin. "But he had to be a giant, too." Lewin and Avedon recruited an enormous young sumo wrestler "with a great, beak nose" to pose with Veruschka. The results were extraordinary, Veruschka swathed in furs against a man and a backdrop even more imposing than she was herself."