Dovima with Elephants

004kctk3Dovima with elephants, evening dress by Dior, Cirque d'Hiver, Paris, August 1955. Photograph by Richard Avedon © The Richard Avedon Foundation


One of my favorite photographs recently sold for almost $1.2 million at auction. The house of Dior was the buyer, which isn't odd in the least since Dovima is not wearing just any Dior gown, but the first one designed by Yves St.-Laurent


Are you surprised that a photograph -- let alone a photograph that first appeared in a fashion magazine -- sold for so much?


I'm not.


This photo in particular speaks volumes. It shows that there is both strength in gracefulness (the model "holding back" the elephants) and gracefulness in strength (the dancing beasts). It speaks about the beauty of nature and man-made creations. It speaks of the tension between feminine power, filth, elegance, and brute force. It's just beautiful to look at. 


It's art.


I don't know much about pricing fine art, but I do know that I consider this photo art. In fact, I think a lot of the editorial photography in fashion magazines is art. I'm not talking about the photoshop disasters that try to sell us a distorted view of what people look like -- I guess you call it commercial fashion photography. No. I love the crazy editorials in the last third of the magazine -- the ones that attempt to tell a story, the ones where the models wear clothes so outrageous and expensive that there's no way they're trying to sell them to us. Instead, the magazine and the pictures offer us an escape. Inspiration. Aspiration. 


The best ones are fun. They make me think. They make me feel. They're art.