My favorite artists - Irving Penn

In my early years studying photography and art, I spent a lot of time learning about the masters on both photography and painting to gain inspiration and knowledge. One of my favorite artists early on (and to this day) and one that iIattribute to my love of black and white portraiture is Irving Penn.

Cecil Beaton, Irving Penn reviewing camera negatives for Chimney Sweep, London, 1950. Gelatin silver print. © The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s, Courtesy of The Irving Penn Foundation

Irving Penn was one of the greatest photographers of the twentieth century, known mostly for his stark and striking portraits and fashion work with Vogue magazine, but his talents went far beyond that with his amazing printmaking and still life photography. For me it was his portraits that inspired me to a great degree. His work showed an amazing simplicity in his use of black and white contrast, but beyond that it how he worked closely with his subjects and drew out their specific personalities for a portrait.

Irving would mostly work with a simple white or gray background and would sit with his subjects as long as it took in order to draw out what he felt was their true self. I remember reading a story about how he placed a subject in front of the background and sat there for for an hour until he was able to break down the facade of the subject and photograph their true personality.

Black and White Vogue Cover (Jean Patchett), New York, 1950, Copyright Irving Penn Foundation

To learn more about Irving Penn, go to the Irving Penn Foundation website at

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