Irving Penn, a legendary photographer known for his iconic vogue shoots, died last month at 92, leaving his brilliant legacy behind. [1917-2009] A mastermind photographer, Penn defined fashion imagery for the 20th century with his rich choice in wardrobe and overly stark backgrounds. Most of his work was in black and white and very cutting edge for the times, for the most part it wasn’t appreciated until modernists came about. Yet, through is avant-guard and perfectly simple point of view he paved the way for fashion photography for decades to come. Eventually he would be known as the man who changed the face of fashion, advertisements, and portraiture.
Penn’s claim to fame began after WWII, when fashion was starting to appear out of the rubble and its seven year hiatus. This was a huge time for fashion, as Yves Saint Laurent started designing his modern “woman”, one who was androgenous, strong, and never seen prior to this post war awakening. Penn’s work was starting to appear frequently in Harper’s Baazar, Vogue, The New Yorker, and Vanity Fair. He began to shoot icons such as Pablo Picasso, Georgia O’Keefe, Marlene Dietrich, W.H. Auden, and many more. This uprise in his reputation continued throughout the rest of his life, as he shot hundreds of famous models and celebrities. Eventually, he would be known to have the longest tenure ever at Conde’ Nast, for he is timeless and his work never grows old.
Irving Penn’s prolific and inspiring fashion photography will live forever. He was classic and cool, with a sort of minimalism that was more influential than any photographer in history. His vision and love for this art form will be forever remembered, and will inspire photographers and fashion lovers for decades to come. In the wise words of Irving Penn, ” A good photographer, is one that communicates a fact, touches the heart, and leaves the viewer a changed person for having seen it. It is, in a word, effective.”
A tribute to Penn and his amazing work…