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The three greatest photographers ever… Irving Penn

Sometimes you get to see photographies which are so strong and recognizable that they are forever stored in your memory… photos that for you define events, a time in your life, emotions etc.

That could be the photo of a falling soldier by Robert Capa (which turned out to be constructed), Albert Einstein with his tongue out, the student stopping tanks at Tiananmen Square, The Beatles crossing Abbey Road etc.

Like iconic photos you have photographers standing out. Not because of a single great image but because they managed to make a life time of great images. For me the three most important photographers have been and still are: Irving Penn, Richard Avedon and Helmut Newton. Below you will find the first of three personal encounters with these masters.

Irving Penn (1917–2009)

Irving Penn Cover Vogue, April 1950

Irving Penn was one of the most respected photographers of the 20th century. In a career that began at the premiere fashion magazine Vogue in 1943 and spans more than six decades, he created innovative fashion, still life, and portrait studies. His photographs are defined by the elegant simplicity and meticulous rigor that became the trademarks of his style. (introduction to Irving Penn by Getty Museum)

I still remember my first extensive look into the world of Irving Penn… at a book sale I found “Passage”, which was a retrospective collection of his images up until 2001. I had seen some of his images beforehand, but the book gave me a much broader introduction to his work – and from the first page I was captivated.

Simple yet strong images, portraits, fashion and still life. Reading the book always leaves me in a state of mind where I think… if only I can do what he did.

Two times I have had the chance to see Irving Penn solo exhibitions. First time at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, where more than 250 prints of his trades people series were displayed.

Second time at the National Portrait Gallery, London, where the exhibition included 120 prints of his brilliant portraits.

Besides those two focused exhibitions, I saw some of his photos at the Fashion exhibition at Fotografiska in Stockholm last year and for sale at Art Basel both last and this year.

When I watch his photos I am fascinated and inspired. The images seems to defy aging and just continues to work miracles…

But scroll down and have a look for yourself:

Ballet Society, 1948 Irving Penn

Ballet Society, 1948 Irving Penn

Young Butchers (from the Trades People series), 1950 Irving Penn

Young Butchers (from the Trades People series), 1950 Irving Penn

Woman in palace, 1951 Irving Penn

Woman in palace, 1951 Irving Penn

Balenciaga - Little great coat, 1950 Irving Penn

Balenciaga – Little great coat, 1950 Irving Penn

Pablo Picasso, 1957 Irving Penn

Pablo Picasso, 1957 Irving Penn

Ingmar Bergman, 1964 Irving Penn

Ingmar Bergman, 1964 Irving Penn

Two Liqueurs, 1951 Irving Penn

Two Liqueurs, 1951 Irving Penn

Frozen Foods, 1977 Irving Penn

Frozen Foods, 1977 Irving Penn

All the best,
Martin

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