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Fashion photo fetches a fortune

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Time magazine included Dovima with Elephants in its 100 Photographs - The Most Influential Images of all Time collection.

One of the world’s most iconic fashion photographs, Dovima with Elephants: Evening Dress by Dior, shot by Richard Avedon, was the top-priced lot at Christie’s Photographs auction in New York on April 6. The 1955 image of the model with circus elephants fetched $456500 (about R5.48million).

The Christie’s sale focused on the growing importance of photography as a collectable art form. Time magazine included Dovima with Elephants in its 100 Photographs – The Most Influential Images of all Time collection, stating that the photo’s enduring influence lies in the two people who made it.

“Dovima was one of the last great models of the sophisticated mould, when haute couture was a relatively cloistered and elite world. After the 1950s, models began to gravitate toward girl-next-door looks instead of the old generation’s unattainable beauty, helping turn high fashion into entertainment.

“Dovima with Elephants distils that shift by juxtaposing the spectacle and strength of the elephants with Dovima’s beauty and the delicacy of her gown, the first Dior dress designed by Yves Saint Laurent. And by moving models out of the studio and placing them against exciting backdrops, Avedon helped blur the line between commercial fashion photography and art,” Time said.

Avedon (1923-2004) was staff photographer for The New Yorker magazine for which he famously shot an image of disabled Superman-actor, Christopher Reeve, in his wheelchair; and nude photographs of Oscar winner Charlize Theron.

Dovima, the American model whom Avedon called “the most remarkable and unconventional beauty of her time”, died in 1990 at the age of 63. Her “stage” name was based on her given names: Dorothy Virginia Margaret Juba.

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