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Thursday, 08 October 2009


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One of my very first photographic heroes, sad day

There is a great Penn exhibition on in LA. I went there 2 weeks ago.

You could not be a photographer through the '60s, '70s and later and be unaffected by Penn's work. He defined or re-defined every genre he worked in, and a first viewing of "Worlds in a Small Room" was a relevatory experience to most people.

You have to admire anyone with the talent to turn cigarette butts into an evocative image. The Picasso portrait manages to capture the essence of the artist from a partially hidden face. Minimal and powerful.

Not sure why you restrict a man by giving him the title of "fashion photographer". He was just a damn fine photographer period.

"Not sure why you restrict a man by giving him the title of 'fashion photographer.' He was just a damn fine photographer period."

Yes, that's the point of the post.


Shame thought he was going to live forever , certainly inspired me no end.
I do not think many current highly regarded photographers come close to what Irving Penn has achieved.

This has been a particularly tough last five years in terms of losing photographic greats. This is very sad and a huge loss. Whata body of work and what vision.

No EXIF information? His workflow was a bit sloppy. And he should have told Pablo to pull his head out of his coat. And that table top's a proper mess. And ...

A man of exquisite taste and a photographer to boot. Had a nice long run, tho. Can't be sad when a 92 year old shuffles off to Buffalo. Let's hope there will come another to fill his shoes.

Wow, bum me out.

Penn was a brilliant man. I think more than a photographer he was a designer.

Amazing how he tagged everything he shot with his sensibility..clean, elegant, strong and playful, sexy.

There has been a suggestion on an internet forum that Penn didn't actually do his platinum printing. Of course anything can be written on the net but the suggestion was made by someone very knowledgeable about the world of platinum printing.

I don't know if that is true or not but the rumor is out there.

But I have to ask, if the rumor is true does it matter?

I was fortunate to see a couple of large exhibits of his work and was a great admirer of the work I saw firsthand. His dye transfer color prints were great as well. I recall coming back to the exhibits 3 times to soak it all in.

Don Bryant,
I don't know, but I can't see that it matters. Lots of photographers don't do their own printing. Tom Baril was Mapplethorpe's printer. Cartier-Bresson printed almost none of his own work.

The subject might make an interesting post, come to think of it.


Good save. :-)

Lots of photographers hire people to do the printing at some or most stages of their career. Most of the photojournalists just sent in exposed film, right? Even the very famous ones? They didn't even see the prints before they were published often. So that goes even a step past the great art photographers, nearly all of whom hired people to print for them.

@Don Bryant: I have a lab do all of my silver halide printing. I used to take me one hour to produce one exhibition quality print. A lab can do it in far less time, and sometimes better. I have some B&W silver prints hanging in my loft, made by an Agfa machine in a lab, and they are equal or better than what I used to print in my darkroom.

I now have a HP 13x19 inkjet, but I sometimes go to a lab. No shame in that. I think Arnold Neuman had a darkroom assistant, and I'm sure Clyde Butcher spends most of his time behind the camera, and has others doing darkroom duty.

It would make an interesting column.

Personal opinion: I think Penn was better than Avedon.

Irving Penn was among the very few standard-bearers of photography's epitome. One of the very few climbers who reached the summit and took photos of the scene against which the rest of us can measure our own works and the works of others. Penn's body is gone but his work will thankfully be immortal.

Keith, I was hanging out at the farm with Lisa at the time he was doing his platinum prints. She asked if I would like to help him--I would have loved to --but had a family to feed.
Never saw the lab-- I did see all the original prints though.
Great stuff--Yes he did all his own work when it came to the Platinum work. At the time I was working on my series of images on bronze-- really looking for the archival image that would last at least 5,000 years. Loved the farm, nothing like walking on deer skins in the house.

Carl Leonardi,
The old house and farm on LI was truly beautiful. The lab was incredibly well designed on two levels but on the outside as you remember looked like the classic red barn. Lisa was a true Renaissance woman, a great artist in her own right. It was a privilege to have known both of them.

I hear that Frank Llyod Wright didn't make his famous buildings either...

A wonderful artist, who balanced commerce and art exquisitely; creative and powerful, regardless of the "label".

Doing a little reading, I found that Penn started and ended as a painter.

Keith Trumbo,
A privilege and a great gift--They were both very kind and down to earth--I spent many hours with Lisa, listening to her many tales of Mr. Penn and herself.

The photo world has lost a great master--I hope his work will become better known in years to come.

This AP picture of a photo shoot with a New Guinea mud man and a child http://msnbc.msn.com/id/33217044/displaymode/1176/rstry/33214155/ reveals some details of Penn's craft. Don't you hate it when one of the levers of your pan/tilt head sticks into you? He has set his facing to the front! That satchel hanging from the tripod surely contains a few bricks to weigh it down for extra stability.

"Don't you hate it when one of the levers of your pan/tilt head sticks into you? He has set his facing to the front!"

That's the way the Tiltall (tripod brand) was designed to work. Short lever forward keeps you from bumping it.

Adam Gopnik is one of the most agile writers these days. His "Postscript" on Irving Penn in the Oct 19 issue of the New Yorker is not to be missed.

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