Item #6060 Nothing Personal. 1964. AVEDON, Richard Avedon, James Baldwin.
Nothing Personal. 1964.
Nothing Personal. 1964.
Nothing Personal. 1964.
Nothing Personal. 1964.
Nothing Personal. 1964.
Nothing Personal. 1964.
Nothing Personal. 1964.
Nothing Personal. 1964.

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Nothing Personal. 1964.

Lucerne, Switzerland: C. J. Bucher, 1964. New York: Atheneum Publishers (from imprint on half title). Photographic prints by Earl Steinbicker, engravings supervised by Emil Buhrer, designed by Marvin Israel. Hardcover in slipcase. Folio (14” x 11”), white boards, stamped title on front cover, stamped author label on rear cover. 88 pp., 52 full and double-page b&w photo illus., 7 b&w images on fold-out. Author inscription on flyleaf. CONDITION: Very good, wear at head of spine with 1” tear, 2” separation at foot of spine, light soiling on covers; good slipcase, worn along edges with soiling and stains throughout, intact and sturdy, with title-author stamps still legible.

First edition, inscribed by Avedon to prominent fashion editor and friend Polly Allen Mellen, “for Polly with Gratitude. Dick.” A breathtaking collaborative venture between preeminent fashion photographer Richard Avedon and leading literary voice James Baldwin during the American Civil Rights Era, testifying to the many conflicts and injustices in American society in 1964. 

Avedon’s photographs reveal a cross-section of American experiences, picturing somewhat comical weddings at the N.Y.C. marriage bureau, opposing politicians such as George Wallace and Adam Clayton Powell; activists Malcolm X and Billy Graham; popular artists Fabian and the Everly brothers; DAR matrons in formal gowns covered with banners, entitled “Generals of the Daughters of the American Revolution;” a Joe Louis fist; portraits of Linus Pauling, Bertrand Russell, Arthur Miller, and Dorothy Parker; a naked Allan Ginsberg facing American Nazis; and concluding first with a series of heart-rending mental hospital patient images, followed by a series of hopeful, life-affirming images of children with loving parents at the beach. 

Baldwin critiques television advertising, “unloved” American cities, and expounds on the myths of American Freedom while holding out hope that examination of our despair will offer a solution. Using the Deep South as an example, Baldwin says “The poor white was enslaved almost from the moment he arrived on these shores, and he is still enslaved by a brutal and cynical oligarchy.”

Polly Allen Mellen (1924–) was a fashion editor and stylist who worked for Harper's Bazaar (under Diana Vreeland) and later Vogue (under Vreeland and Grace Mirabella)—her career spanning over sixty years. She served as a nurse's aide during WWII and moved to New York in 1949. At Harper’s Bazaar she met her future longtime collaborator Richard Avedon, who initially found Mellen “too noisy.” In time, however, Avedon would describe her as “the most creative sittings editor I ever worked with.” Nicolas Ghesquiere has argued that Mellen’s work at Harper’s and later Vogue came to “define a new, more modern ethos about clothes and how women wore them. With an almost playful daring, [the ethos] brimmed with a kind of strong, smart, unabashedly celebratory feminine independence—as well as an artful element of provocation and extravagance—that Mellen herself embodied and drew upon in her collaborations” (Ghesquiere, Polly Mellen.) Over the course of her career, Mellen worked with such photographers as Helmut Newton, Avedon, Arthur Elgort, Irving Penn, Steven Meisel, and Mario Testino.

REFERENCES: James Baldwin Biography and Quotes at PBS online; Polly Allen Mellen, at American Masters History online; The Richard Avedon Foundation online.

Item #6060

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