Irving Penn

One of the most influential photographers of the twentieth century, Irving Penn’s oeuvre spans over six decades across multiple genres united by his signature refined simplicity. While the foundation of his work is fashion, portraiture, and still life that began in 1943 with his first Vogue cover picture, he consistently expanded his subject matter and method. Penn was a master of reduction and refinement, working in a deliberate way with simple, controllable settings to create timeless images of an ephemeral world. Unlike his counterparts, he was not interested in photography outside the studio, let alone spontaneous shots in streets and cafes. Instead, Penn offered something fixed and contemplative. In his studio images the background is his stage and features prominently across various genres including his seminal ethnographic portraits and fashion images. Penn would detach people or objects from their own social context, isolating them to lend greater attention to their idiosyncrasies. Employing this technique in 1974 for a series, Penn was inspired by Diana Vreeland’s exhibition of Parisian haute couture, “The 10s, the 20s, the 30s: Inventive Clothes” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Photography & Works