The summer was the only real time I spent with my father. The rest of the year he was occupied with his New York City department store, Avedon's Fifth Avenue. Before my father became a businessman, though, he was a teacher. In the summer of 1931, at the beach, he opened my eyes to the wonder of photography.

He explained that if the sun's rays traveled through a magnifying glass, they could create fire. (Later that day I experimented at home and burned off the corners of the "good" carpet.) He also described how light passing through a negative onto a...

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