Irving Penn: The one and only


“A good photograph is one that communicates a fact, touches the heart, and leaves the viewer a changed person for having seen it; it is in one word, effective.”


Those are the words of Irving Penn. I think those words precisely address what is the art of photography and Irving Penn is the master of it all.

If you asked me who is my favorite photographer, I would need to think long, really long, but if I had to come out with a name, I’d probably pull out the name of Irving Penn.

Irving Penn was born in 1917 in Plainfield, New Jersey and recently died in 2009, aged 92. He is one of greatest photographers of all time, of all, all, time. He is most known for his fashion photography, the many incredible covers of Vogue and for his portraits. Irving Penn worked many years for Vogue and founded his own studio in 1953. He was one of the first photographers to pursue the idea of simplicity and would pose subjects against a simple grey or white backdrop, giving simplicity the most amusing effect possible. Later he was able to expand his studio and included a famous upright angled backdrop forming an acute corner where he photographed the famous Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Martha Graham, Igor Stravinsky, Georgia O’Keeffe and W. H. Auden to mention a few.

Another of his greatest contributions to photography, and something he is less “popularly” known for, is his flower photography. Incredible, striking colors on a white background. The image is still, but you can feel it moving. Magically.

He is so peculiar because of the simplicity represented in his pictures. You can stare at his photographs for hours and hours and just feel magnetized to the paper. Irving Penn’s fashion photography is not the usual fashion photography today, it is so very elegant, it, exactly as he said, it touches the heart, it makes you feel something inside you, it makes you think, ponder, it makes you laugh, cry, shout or dream. And think about it, it is simply a subject in black and white with a gray background. It’s incredible.

“Sensitive people faced with the prospect of a camera portrait put on a face they think is one they would like to show the world. …Very often what lies behind the facade is rare and more wonderful than the subject knows or dares to believe.” —Irving Penn, 1975.


6 thoughts on “Irving Penn: The one and only

  1. Ciao Roby! I just started reading your blog! I never knew you had one…..interesting…i have to do one for school project later (about fashion in Italy, design, food, culture..etc.) and realized i picked the same layout as yours….! We just started on it didn’t even put any contents yet…come check it out once it is up, you can tell us what you think too 🙂 Grazie mille!


  2. Pingback: Happy Birthday to the blog! Celebrating almost 50,000 views! « Roberta's Blog

  3. Pingback: Irving Penn

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