NEW YORK, N.Y. – The publisher of a new Richard Avedon biography says it will look into alleged inaccuracies raised by the late photographer’s foundation, but rejected calls to withdraw the book.
Earlier this week, the Richard Avedon Foundation issued a long list of “exaggerations and inaccuracies” in “Avedon: Something Personal,” co-authored by Steven M.L. Aronson and former foundation head and longtime Avedon colleague Norma Stevens. The foundation is asking that the Penguin Random House imprint Spiegel & Grau cease publication of the book, which came out last month and draws upon interviews with many of Avedon’s friends and associates.
“Everyone saw one side of him— but together the testimonies of his assistants, models and lovers add up to a mosaic of the man,” The New York Times wrote in a Dec. 12 review. “The snapshots are affectionate and admiring, and the contradictions in them can give you whiplash.”
The alleged errors range from the terms of an Avedon’s contract with Conde Nast in the 1960s to Stevens’ claim that she was “at his side” when the photographer Avedon died in 2004. The foundation also alleges that Stevens borrowed material from a fictionalized memoir Avedon had worked on.
“Stevens appears to be lifting various stories out of this fictional work, lightly editing and rewriting them, and then presenting them as both her own work and as biographical fact,” the foundation’s executive director, James Martin, said in a statement.
On Thursday, the publisher said that it will correct any mistakes for future editions, but plans no other changes.
“The book is an important and meaningful account by the person who was in a privileged position to observe and know Richard Avedon as well as anybody else and to reflect on him,” the statement reads. “Furthermore, the book is not a traditional biography. As the flap copy says, that the book is ‘equal parts memoir, biography, and oral history.’ It consists in large measure of impressions_those of his close friend and business partner Norma Stevens, as well as those of over a hundred other people who knew him well and contributed their own memories and impressions. The story she tells recounts the tales he told her in the almost thirty years she worked alongside him.”