Sunday 3 November 2013


Marcel Duchamp, New York, 1948. The Morgan Library & Museum; 
Gift of Irving Penn; 2007.14.

 Georgia O'Keeffe, New York, 1948. The Morgan Library & Museum; Purchased as the gift of Richard L. Menschel
and with the support of The Horace W. Goldsmith Fund for Americana and The Margaret T. Morris Fund; 2007.67,

Marlene Dietrich, December 23, 1948. Courtesy of The Irving Penn Foundation.

 Igor Stravinsky, New York, April 22, 1948. Courtesy of The Irving Penn Foundation.
Joe Louis, New York, February 15, 1948. Courtesy of The Irving Penn Foundation.

Truman Capote (1948) by Irving Penn. © The Irving Penn Foundation. Exhibiting at Pace MacGill in The Art Show

Irving Penn - Portraits

1917 - 2009

Whenever I think of the name Irving Penn, old school fashion photography and Vogue comes to my mind. Nevertheless his legacy covers much more than that; from the numerous and also famous portraits, nudes, ethnographic studies, to his series of Still Live.

I want to focus on the "Portraits in a corner: 1948" that he created in the 90˚ intersection of two walls where the subjects had to place themselves. In a quote that I found on the web about this series, Penn says that the result of this peculiar placement was a very rich series of pictures. "This confinement, surprisingly seemed to comfort people, soothing them. The walls were a surface to lean or to push against. For me the picture possibilities were interesting: limiting the subjects' movement seemed to relieve me of part of the problem of holding on to them."

When I first saw these photos I wasn't really sure they all looked "soothing" but if you've ever been in front of a camera for a portrait session, you'll know that it could be an extremely awkward experience, so maybe you'll may find a small corner where you can get a "hug", friendlier than a large empty space.

One of the things I love more about this series, worth paying close attention, is the way people place themselves on the space, and what does that says about who they are, and how they felt. Alexander Lieberman, Editorial Director of Conde Nast Publications 1962-1994 and former employer of Penn labeled this series of portraits as "existencial images . . . in harmony with the tormenting isolation of [Samuel] Beckett." 
You can read more in Vicky Goldberg's article for The New Yorker Penn is difficult: 'Can't You Tell?'

And you want more info about Irving Penn visit these:


The Photo section is curated by the Brooklyn-based photographer Andreína Restrepo

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