Earlier this month, a few torrid details leaked about “Avedon: Something Personal,” a biography and oral history of Richard Avedon assembled by the photographer’s longtime business partner, Norma Stevens, and writer Steven M.L. Aronson. The New York Post’s Page Six gleefully reported on the book’s revelations about Avedon’s supposed love affair with film director and writer Mike Nichols, his disdain for Vogue editor Anna Wintour and his prickly relationship with Jacqueline Kennedy.
“Something Personal” is indeed saturated with gossipy revelations about Avedon’s private life and musings. Yet lest anyone grow indignant about the idea of Avedon as the subject of a tawdry tell-all, Ms. Stevens is quick to assure readers that this is a sanctioned exposé. Before his death, on numerous occasions, she recalls, Avedon had obliged her to write a memoir about him: “Be kind,” he reportedly told her, “only, don’t be kind—I don’t want a tribute, I want a portrait, and the best portrait is always the truth. Make me into an Avedon.” In other words, glamorous but unsparing.