Irving Penn Dies at 92: Death Leaves Void in Fashion Photography
Irving Penn dies at the age of 92 in his Manhattan home this morning and his death leaves a void in the medium he was so respected for, fashion photography.
He was known for his work in fashion and for photographing famous people with his signature of minimalism and elegance and his work is recognizable throughout magazines and museums worldwide.
He started work with Vogue Magazine in 1943 and has had a relationship with them ever since.
His long career at Vogue spanned a number of radical transformations in fashion and its depiction, but his style remained remarkably constant.
His subjects were often photographed still and silent; none were ever running or leaping or in a hurry to go anywhere. His work was not spontaneous, but was described by many as a 'seance'. He also liked photographing whole bodies and did not often do too many close-ups or dismembering of his subjects.
He had photographed subjects from Parisian fashion models to Peruvian peasants and seeemed equally at home doing both.
He was married to Lisa Fonssagrives for 42 years, until her death in 1992 and she was often the subject of his photos. She became a sculptor after her modeling career ended, and they had a son Tom and a stepdaughter Mia Fonssagrives.Solow. He is also survived by his brother Arthur and nine grandchildren.
At the height of the cultural convulsions of the 1960s Mr. Penn taught himself to print his own pictures using a turn-of-the-century process that relies on platinum instead of more conventional silver. The process produces beautiful, velvety tones in the image and is among the most permanent of photographic processes, although it requires time-consuming preparation and precise control in the darkroom.
Irving Penn then wanted to print all his new work in this way and to reprint much of his earlier work. He wanted his work to last a long time and was concerned with change, mortality, and decay and this can be seen in some of his personal work with skulls of wild animals and cigarette butts.
He was born on June 16 1917 in Plainfield New Jersey and he studied drawing, painting and graphic and industrial design at the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Art.
He finished school and moved to New York and worked in both freelance and as a painter. He got a job as Mr. Liberman's assistant at Vogue and started by surpervising the design of Vogue's covers. He would have over 150 Vogue covers in his long career.
During WWII Irving Penn drove an ambulance in Italy, but he continued to work in his art and photography. He returned to New York in 1946 and worked as a staff photographer at Vogue.
Irving Penn was known as a perfectionist, but that pays off in the quality of his work over his long career.
A collection of many of his most important images, in a variety of genres, was acquired jointly by the National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of American Art in 1990; the museums, both branches of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, also mounted an exhibition of the collection titled “Irving Penn: Master Images.”