Article by Manos Angelakis
Photos by Gideon Lewing
Avedon: Behind the Scenes, 1964–1980
I met Gideon Lewin in 1968, while I was working as a freelance photographer’s assistant in the New York City advertising photography industry.
When I became interested in advertising photography as a career, I went to New York to attend a commercial photography school. The year previous to my arrival, I had done a very successful (and my very first well paid) fashion shoot for a French knit fashions company around the Greek islands that gave me the financial capability to come to New York to enroll in the school. I soon realized that the school would only be able to teach me the very basics of studio photography, as they were mostly geared towards portrait work in which I had no interest; I decided that, if I wanted to learn the finer points of advertising photography, I would have to work with a number of the top photographers of the period and learn from them by observing them during actual shoots. So, I became a freelance assistant and slogged from studio to studio carrying a beginner’s portfolio of my images, meeting with master photographers and/or their first assistants or studio managers for the privilege of been called in when an extra pair of hands were needed.
I eventually was accepted by Bert Stern (general photo illustration), Tony Cutroneo (large format food photography), Bob Frank (editorial and advertising photography), Steve Eisenberg (general photo illustration) and a number of other first tier photographers. At the beginning the work was spotty and the pay low, $20 for a very long day’s work. But soon, I started having a reputation of being an excellent freelancer, very knowledgeable and technically very capable, and able to work on my own on building sets, creating distinctive lighting, helping with model selection etc. My name was noted in many photo studios’ source rolodexes. At that time, at a busy studio like Dick Avedon’s or Bert Stern’s, there were numerous freelancers working behind the scenes to prepare for advertising shoots such as make-up artists, hair stylists, food stylists, set builders, model bookers etc., whoever was need for a particular situation; almost all were there on a freelance basis.
I only worked with Mr. Avedon in his 58th Street studio on one or two projects; my first shoot there was for an Air India advertisement. I remember being called by Earl Steinbicker, Dick’s studio manager, who told me that I was recommended by Bert Stern and could I come by for an interview; I had done many freelance shoots with Bert and I learned a tremendous amount from working with him, especially about on-location lighting. I met Mr. Lewin the day of the interview; he was Dick’s first assistant, and I worked under his direction for the duration of the shoot.
So, when I saw the book by Gideon Lewin, about his personal experiences working with Dick Avedon for 16 years, I thought it would be a very interesting read, not to mention all the great photographs that illustrate the pages.
To anyone who wants to become a people photographer: read this book and most importantly study the pictures. Look at the composition of the images, the lighting, the angles… Gideom Lewin has managed to capture life and work of a top photographer in one of top top advertising photo studios. Dick Avedon was at the top of his very successful career. His images were, and still are, iconic and the images that Gideon Lewin has included in the book show how one of the best people photographers of the 20th century would work to bring out the beauty of the individuals in any shot. They also illustrate Mr. Lewin’s own high photographic and editorial capabilities while working and managing one of the top beauty and fashion photo studios of the 20th century.
The book will be released on November 19, 2019. It’s well worth exploring.
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