1981, printed 1985
Gelatin silver print
Image: 143.1 x 114.5 cm (56 5/16 x 45 1/16 in.); Paper: 151.5 x 119.8 cm (59 5/8 x 47 3/16 in.)
Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund 2005.143
© The Richard Avedon Foundation
There are between 115,000 and 125,000 beekeepers in the United States.
Beginning in 1979, Avedon visited nearly 200 communities to chronicle often ignored and overlooked people who worked at hard, uncelebrated jobs. This iconic image is one of the most memorable portraits from the 775 he made for his landmark series In the American West. An entomologist from the University of California, Davis, brought 120,000 bees to the shoot. The perfect confluence of idea and execution resulted in this dramatic image of the beekeeper at total peace with the mass of insects arranged in an allover, abstract pattern on his upper body. Fischer’s stoic gaze perfectly fit Avedon’s new definition of a photographic portrait: "I’m looking for people who are surprising-heartbreaking-or beautiful in a terrifying way."
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