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October 7: Irving Penn

October 6, 2015

Irving_Penn-3Fashion photographer and portraitist Irving Penn died at 92 on this date in 2009. His work was strongly tied to Vogue magazine, where he had his first cover in October 1943, but his career came in several stages, including, according to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, “street scenes from the late 1930s, photographs of the American South from the early 1940s, celebrity portraits, fashion photographs, still lifes, and more private studio images. Penn’s pictures reveal a taste for stark simplicity... He was a master of both black-and-white and color photography, and his revival of platinum printing in the 1960s and 1970s was a catalyst for significant change in the art world.” Penn was also “one of the first photographers to cross the chasm that separated magazine and fine art photography, narrowing the gap between art and fashion.” His many well-known series included “Small Trades,” portraits of workers posed formally in their work clothes and holding the tools of their trades. To see a potpourri of his work, look below.

“Sensitive people faced with the prospect of a camera portrait put on a face they think is the one they would like to show to the world... Every so often what lies behind the facade is rare and more wonderful than the subject knows or dares to believe.” —Irving Penn