ROME (Reuters Life!) - Miniature stills of an American model posing in glittery Dior gowns or a Balenciaga jacket are among dozens of previously unseen photos by photographer Richard Avedon on display in Rome as part of fashion week celebrations.
Discovered in an old trunk belonging to the late model Anne Theophane Graham, the mostly black and white stills give a frame-by-frame glimpse into the celebrated photographer's early work for magazines in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Graham was one of Avedon's early muses, and the exhibit pairs unedited frames of her posing coyly or laughing gaily in fashion shoots with the final images that appeared in magazines like Harper's Bazaar, Glamour and Vogue. "They can be seen as if in a film -- frame after frame of shots -- and you can see what the eye of a great photographer is," said Valentina Moncada, an art gallerist and curator of the exhibit.
Considered one of photography's all-time greats, Avedon is famous for his then unconventional fashion shots as well as his stark portraits of commoners and celebrities alike, including those of Marilyn Monroe and the Beatles.
Moncada -- whose mother and Graham shared an apartment in the 1950s as fellow models -- painstakingly matched the photos discovered in the trunk to the final image chosen, hunting down old copies of magazines to verify their authenticity.
"These were photos destined for magazines, not for an art collection," she said. "But all of them retain an intimate air, recreating the atmosphere of the relationship between a model and the photographer in the post-war period."
The exhibit, which opens to the public on February 1, is housed in the Musei Capitolini and Villa Medici and is shown in collaboration with Rome's semi-annual fashion week, which counts promoting ties between fashion and art among its objectives.
One photo set displayed shows Graham, buttoned up in a prim gray Dior flannel suit cinched at the waist, smiling with hands on hips as children from an orphanage stand around her.
Another set shows her in a strapless white satin Dior gown next to a kitchen sink, shot from various angles. One group shows stills behind a misty photograph of Graham in a shimmery gown that appeared in the October 1949 edition of Harper's Bazaar.
"How does one end up with a masterpiece? This exhibit shows you bit by bit how a photographer gets to it," Moncada said.
(Editing by Paul Casciato)