It’s a good time, this book. There’s a feeling of arriving at a party where everyone is at least two drinks (and who knows what else) ahead of you, and the hostess has you by the arm and is barreling you into the thick of things … Stevens is most illuminating in her behind-the-scenes glimpses of the work. Avedon revolutionized the field; he brought an end to the era of the docile mannequin posing stiffly in this season’s clothes — his women leapt off the page; they danced and tumbled and communicated … Avedon’s secretiveness might have scuttled a traditional biography, but it’s sidestepped with Stevens’s oral history approach. Everyone saw one side of him — but together the testimonies of his assistants, models and lovers add up to a mosaic of the man.
If you like tales of obsessive perfectionism and mercurial extravagance, then you'll never be bored with this lavishly illustrated verbal portrait of one of the 20th century’s photographic masters … Intimate and dishy in its conversational tone, the book makes you feel as though you are nose to nose trading stories with a vivacious confidant, your most fabulous friend telling you unabashed and juicy truths. Part oral history, part memoir, part biography, this roomy account fills in the renowned white space surrounding Avedon, a man who curated his reputation as carefully as he did his output, remaining relentlessly private even as he revealed the era’s most incandescent personalities in Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, The New Yorker and more.
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 … Although the bitchier and more salacious anecdotes in Something Personal will likely earn the book a good deal of attention, the cast of characters is most interesting when discussing Avedon’s central struggle: Should he direct his talents to selling the lie or revealing the truth?