Irving Penn Essay

This essay has a total of 1115 words and 7 pages.

Irving Penn

Irving Penn has always strived for the best presentation of his work, he has become a
master printer, revitalizing the platinum-palladium process as well as working with new
techniques. The combination of innovative photography and meticulous printing has made
Irving Penn one of the most significant photographers of the twentieth century.

"Photographing a cake can be art," Irving Penn said when he opened his studio in 1953.
Before long he was backing up his statement with a series of advertising illustrations
that created a new high standard in the field and established a reputation that has kept
him in the top bracket ever since.

Penn has won renown as much in editorial photography as in advertising illustration, and
his innovations especially in portraits and still life have set him apart stylistically.
In later years, he turned to television commercials as an outlet for his unique talent.
One of the most imitated among contemporary photographers, his work has been widely
recognized and applauded.

Irving Penn was born June 16, 1917 in Plainfield, NJ Educated in public; he enrolled at
the age of 18 in a four-year course at the Philadelphia Museum School of Art, where Alexey
Brodovitch taught him advertising design. While training for a career as an art director,
Penn worked the last two summers from Harper's Bazaar as an office boy and apprentice
artist, sketching shoes. At this time, he had no thought of becoming a photographer.


In addition to his work for Vogue magazine (the American, British, and French editions)
Penn has been represented in many important photographic collections, including those of
the Museum of Modem Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Addison Gallery of American
Art, and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

In 1958, Irving Penn was named one of "The World's 10 Greatest Photographers" in an
international poll conducted by Popular Photography Magazine. Penn's statement at the time
is a remarkable summation of purpose and idealism: "I am a professional photographer
because it is the best way I know to earn the money I require to take care of my wife and

His first job on graduating in 1938 was art director of the Junior League magazine, later
he worked in the same capacity for Saks Fifth Avenue department store. At the age of 25,
he quit his job and used his small savings to go to Mexico, where he painted a full year
before he convinced himself he would never be more than a mediocre.

Returning to New York, he won an audience with Alexander Liberman, art director of Vogue
magazine, who hired Penn as his assistant, specifically to suggest photographic covers for
Vogue. The staff photographers didn't think much of his ideas, but Liberman did and asked
Penn to take the pictures himself. Using a borrowed camera, and drawing on his art
background and experience, Penn arranged a still life consisting of a big brown leather
bag, beige scarf and gloves, lemons, oranges, and a huge topaz. It was published as the
Vogue cover for the issue of October 1, 1943, and launched Penn on his photographic

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