Born June 16, 1917, Plainfield NJ

Died October 7, 2009, NY

 Irving Penn was an iconic American photographer, known mostly for his iconic fashion photography, portraits, and still life’s.  He studied under Alexey Brodovitch and worked under him as well for Harper’s Bazaar, who published several of his drawings.  He worked at Vogue Magazine for most of his career.  Where he donned the cover more than 150 times.  He met his wife of 42 years in 1947 at a photo shoot.  She was a Swedish fashion model, Lisa Fonssagrives.  She passed away in 2009. 


By the 1950’s Penn had developed a style of photography in which he would pose his subjects in very close corners.  He felt is calmed and eased his subjects.  He also started to capture a new look with very serious expressions and unique and interesting positions.  He also would also start to shoot his portraits in close and fill the frame with subject’s face.  And use very simple gray backgrounds. 



Subjects photographed with this technique included Martha Graham, Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, and Georgia O’Keeffe, Truman Capote, and Marlene Dietrich.


While a master of the studio flash, most of Penn’s portraits are lighted with window light.  He took this same style and applied it to indigenous people in places like New Guinea, Peru, Morocco and other locations.  To do this Penn created a portable studio with a skylight deployed facing north, He was able to get wonderful results, abroad with this setup.



His life’s work is being celebrated at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.  In an exhibit called Irving Penn, Centennial, they have compiled the largest most comprehensive retrospect to date of this great American photographer.

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