"Avedon does not try to make people look bad," the critic Janet Malcolm wrote in 1975, "he simply doesn't do anything to make them look good . . . Avedon's pictures of men without props present an unpalatable truth. They show us that we are ugly creatures." The ugliness is there, perhaps, but more often we see finer shades of perception in the 79-year-old artist's huge body of work: the beatific soulfulness of a singing Marian Anderson, her eyes closed; the weary crankiness of Truman Capote; the blunt cockiness of the photographer himself. Richard Avedon: Portraits opens September 26 at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.