Richard Avedon

Bill Curry, Drifter, Interstate 40, Yukon, Oklahoma, 6/16/80
1980, printed 1985

Not on view

1980, printed 1985


Gelatin silver print mounted on aluminum

Sheet (Irregular): 46 13/16 × 37 9/16in. (118.9 × 95.4 cm) Mount: 50 1/16 × 39 3/16in. (127.2 × 99.5 cm)

Accession number

In the American West

3/5 | 2 APs

Credit line
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Norma and Martin Stevens

Rights and reproductions
© 2009 The Richard Avedon Foundation


Bill Curry, Drifter, Interstate 40, Yukon, Oklahoma, 6/16/80 is one of 124 images reproduced in Richard Avedon’s In the American West (1985), a book of portraits taken over the course of five summers spent traveling in the western United States. Avedon shot all of his subjects frontally with an 8 x 10 view camera against a massive sheet of white paper. They were not the rugged cowboys or heroic adventurers of the mythical American West, but instead society’s neglected and anonymous casualties, among them impoverished farmers, slaughterhouse workers, and waitresses, as well as drifters, degenerates, and snake charmers—a departure from the fashion models Avedon began his career shooting. Enlarged to an impressive scale, this image is a characteristic study in stark, almost clinical detail. The portrait of Curry, an otherwise anonymous man crossing his arms against his chest, exudes what Avedon referred to as his photographs’ “confrontational erotic quality.” Whether pride, self-confidence, trust, or scorn lie behind Curry’s piercing eyes, the print’s rich grays and seamless white background spark a visceral immediacy, a disorienting sense of intimacy with a subject we cannot know.