Irving Penn was a photographer widely known for his fashion, still life and portrait work. His work has been exhibited internationally and continues to be regularly used for exhibitions after his death. Irving Penn was born on the 16th June 1917 in New Jersey, United States of America. Penn studied drawing, painting, graphics and industrial arts, while studying Penn also worked at Harper’s Bazaar where some of Penn’s work was published. His first job upon graduation was director of a magazine company until the age of twenty-five when he quit his job and using all his savings, moved to Mexico where he spent the next year painting, he decided his work was nothing more than mediocre and decided to return to New York. The art director of Vogue magazine Alexander Liberman hired Penn as his assistant, Liberman asked Penn to take photographs of his ideas, using borrowed cameras and drawings he did while in Mexico Penn arranged a still life. It was published as the cover of Vogue for the 1943 October 1st Issue, this became Penn’s step to launching a career as a photographer.
"Photographing a cake can be art," quoted Penn during the opening of his studio in 1953, it did not take long to back up his statement as he produced a series of advertising illustrations that helped him establish his reputation and has kept him amongst the greats of photography ever since. Penn is notably best known for his fashion photography which began with his popular 1950’s Paris collections; Penn removed the frequently used space or scale and allowed fashion to become the main focus of his imagery. Penn always took deep pride in the presentation of his work, he experimented with new techniques and he often combined old with new. Penn’s usual use of minimal, flat and plain backgrounds is often thought of as the beginning of new and modern era of fashion photography. His work has been included in Vogue magazine for the American, British and France editions. Penn has stated that he enjoys bringing imperfections such as gray hair, dirt and wrinkles which usually would go unnoticed on cluttered and destructive backgrounds; he believed this to be his vision of natural beauty. Penn’s work has been included in exhibitions worldwide including those at The Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art as well as The Baltimore Museum of Art. Penn has fully established himself in advertising illustration as well as photography, his ability to push boundaries and apply his own interpretations to his work especially in his portraits and still life have won him major credibility and his unique talent is often said to set him in a league of his own. His work is often imitated by photography students as well as contemporary photographers; his wok is recognised worldwide and given much applause. Image 1:
Photographed in 1969
The shadows of their faces are in the cameras focus therefore giving the photograph a dark and moody persona. The subjects clothing and accessories such as the sunglasses they are wearing I feel give an intimidating feeling, the closeness between them though and how they are all standing and sitting give a sense of a family bond and close friendship. The Vietnam War took place in 1969 therefore this photograph could symbolise brotherhood amongst soldiers.
The photograph of Georgia O'Keeffe is an extremely good example of the work Penn produced during his early years as a photographer. The lady looks almost lost in her own world, standing in the deep of a corner making her appear to be fragile and unable to escape from her thoughts or the corner itself. She no longer holds a powerful persona that she may have once, Penn positioning of his camera is clever as he pulls the camera back to enforce the heaviness of the corner walls. The corner shows nervousness of his subject, for the uneasy atmosphere of the post war era they were in at the time of this photograph....