discover richard avedon's unseen 90s casting videos with kate moss and james king

The Richard Avedon — Moving Image exhibition taps a treasure trove of humorous short films and honest casting interviews to explore the legendary American photographer's obsession with personality.

by Hannah Ongley
09 September 2016, 8:33am

James King for CKbe, 1996

Calvin Klein ads are inextricably connected with sex and scandal. Among the most notorious: Steven Meisel's Calvin Klein Jeans campaign that featured denim-clad teens posing suggestively in a faux wood-paneled rec room, Herb Ritts' iconic early 90s shots of a bulked up Marky Mark and a topless teenage Kate Moss, and Richard Avedon's ads of Brooke Shields at the age of just 15. "What gets between me and my Calvins?" she asks the camera. "Nothing." But Avedon's ads were also bold in a way that has nothing to do with FBI investigations and complains from former president Bill Clinton. Unconcerned with blank canvas teens and topless faux couples, Avedon was obsessed with capturing personality at its most real and most disarmingly raw. 

The Visionaire-curated exhibition Richard Avedon — Moving Image demonstrates this by tapping a treasure trove of the legendary American photographer's previously unseen casting videos for Calvin Klein throughout the 80s and 90s. Even those familiar with the final product will be fascinated by how it came into being. Avedon would talk to his young models for hours to extract their stories, most of which never made it to televisions or billboards: including a relatively unknown Kate Moss talking about how she doesn't recognise herself in the mirror, and a pre-rehab James King opening up about the suicide of a friend, both for Klein's CKbe fragrance. While we walk through the space, Visionaire's Cecilia Dean recalls being asked to have tea in Avedon's living room shortly after being booked on a Shiseido commercial he was shooting — an offer she only understood the relevance of once she saw the new videos. 

The Calvin Klein videos don't comprise the entirety of the exhibition, which consists of just one room but could easily keep you enthralled for hours — thanks in part to a pile of giant cushions in the middle of the floor, inspired by Avedon's mid-90s advertisements for Versace Home. A series of particularly amusing short films commissioned by Japanese apparel brand Jun Ropé feature Jean Shrimpton, Lauren Hutton, and Veruschka von Lehndorff — equally engrossing women with wildly disparate personalities — acting out humorous backstage scenarios. Veruschka's sees the extra-terrestrially gorgeous German transform from a moustachioed man into a swanlike model, while Shrimpton doubts her jumping abilities. In another, Anjelica Huston gives a stunning, somber recount of losing someone who looks like her — her mother had recently died in a car accident — before the visual ends with her kissing her own doppelgänger. Other films and footage tackle themes of self-doubt and psychosis. 

Richard Avedon: Moving Image is on view through September 30, 2016 at Cadillac House, 330 Hudson Street.


Text Hannah Ongley
Photos and videos courtesy of The Richard Avedon Foundation