September 22, 2008

Photo Review: Dovima with elephants by Richard Avedon

Dovima with elephants, evening dress by Dior, Cirque d'Hiver, August 1955

Dovima with elephants, evening dress by Dior, Cirque d'Hiver, August 1955

This photo by Richard Avedon is well-known for a reason.  At the time, the contrast between the dirty elephants and the clean, elegant model was unheard of.  Nowadays, this is not as jarring.  Artists constantly push the boundaries, and society as a whole is not as conservative as we were in the 1950s.

What really makes the photograph unique is the textures: the rough elephant skin and the smooth fabric of the dress.  There is also a contrast between the tones, which is further emphasized because the photo isn’t in color.  The elephants are grey while the model in her dress is black and white.

If I had to reshoot this photo, I would correct two things.  There is a definite balance of symmetry from left to right except for the third elephant on the right side.  Also, I like that the model is imitating the elephants lifting their trunks, but I wish the dress flowed out or she stuck her leg out away from her body or something similar to copy the way the elephants are lifting their right legs.



  1. Great photo and great commentary – thanks.
    I disagree with your corrections, however. To have a couture model raise her leg like that would jar, messing with the elegance of her posture. The (opposite) knee crooked through the dress is enough of an echo of the elephants’ posture to create both tension and symmetry. To me, it heightens the contrast you discuss further.

    Comment by Maisie Middleton — July 10, 2009 @ 1:54 am

  2. great photo
    I agree with Maisie. the beauty of this photo is show perfectly. The big bold messy animal wid the smooth elegance of the woman. Its calm and mature. It kind of displays a natural world from bothsides. i would hang this photo in my house. it is a shame about the other elephant, but im sure its beauty will shine through on/in other photos. 🙂

    Comment by Amanda — September 10, 2009 @ 10:15 pm

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