It must have been an extremely difficult decision to leave Avedon in 1980 – to end that relationship. “I was ready,” Lewin replies. “The time had come, but yes, it was difficult. I felt like I was leaving home.
A few days after Lewin opened his own studio, “I got a call from Dick’s secretary saying, ‘waiting hour next Tuesday,’ and the whole team showed up, with a new set of dishes, the same as [Avedon] had, and food and champagne, and a big package wrapped in brown paper. Inside was a huge copy of Avedon’s 1955 photograph, Dovima with Elephants, “the one that hung in his studio.” Avedon had signed it: From my studio to yours.
Avedon died of a brain hemorrhage in 2004 while on assignment. The last time Lewin saw him was at the theatre: “walking down the aisle,” he told me. “He was alone, and I walked up to him, we hugged, and he looked at me and said, ‘I want to go to Iraq. Would you like to come with me? I said, ‘Dick, I I didn’t go to Vietnam with you. I’m not going to Iraq – I’m sorry. “Ah, terrible, terrible,” he said, but it was really a warm moment. We always remained close. What he brought to this world of ours, I have total admiration for him, and I don’t regret for a minute having worked for him.
Avedon: Behind the Scenes (Powerhouse, £64.70) is out now. Gideon Lewin is at FotoNostrum, Barcelona (fotonostrum.com) until October 2