Irving Penn was one of the twentieth century's great photographers, known for his arresting images and masterful printmaking.At a time when photography was primarily understood as a means of communication, he approached it with an artist's eye and expanded the creative potential of the medium, both in his professional and personal work.
Irving Penn was one of the twentieth century's great photographers, known for his arresting images and masterful printmaking.At a time when photography was primarily understood as a means of communication, he approached it with an artist's eye and expanded the creative potential of the medium, both in his professional and personal work.Like his earlier Nudes series, this work departed radically from the prevailing uses of photography.
While magazine work provided the initial impetus and means for travel to foreign locations, Penn's enthusiasm and his particular concept of ethnographic portraiture gave him great personal as well as professional satisfaction from the projects.
Penn used a variety of studio spaces to remove his subjects from their "natural circumstances." In his Cuzco photographs (1948) and the , which captured artisans and blue-collar workers in Paris, London, and New York, might not seem an ethnographic project, but in fact it shares all the fundamental features with Penn's later photographs of non-Western subjects, and as Penn recognized, his approach to tradespeople in Europe and the United States—an anonymous portraiture—had been fundamentally conditioned by his temporary occupation of a local Peruvian photographer's studio in Cuzco and the pictures he made there of Quechua Indians.
His innovative portraits, still life, fashion, and beauty photographs continued to appear regularly in Vogue.
The studio was busy with magazine, advertising, and personal work, as well as printing and exhibition projects.
Determined to shape the body of work he left behind from such a prolific career, he also carefully structured and reduced his archives.
In 2009, , Hackelbury Fine Art, London, UK The Construction of the Other: The Archives of Imagination, a Selection from the Collection of the Fotomuseum Provincie Antwerp, Palais de Beaux-Arts/Bozar, Brussels, Belgium 2006 Fashion Photography, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Boston, MA, USA 2005 Art Institute, Chicago, USA Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA National Gallery of Art, Washington D.
I can say that even at that time pictures trying to show people in their "natural circumstances" were for me generally disappointing.
Certainly I know that to accomplish such a result was beyond my strength and capabilities.
in December 1948, Irving Penn traveled independently to Cuzco, where he stayed for several days.
He rented a studio from a highly regarded local photographer that featured natural light from north-facing windows and a simple painted curtain as its backdrop.