Photographers For Inspiration - Irving Penn

irvingpenn.jpgOkay - back to old school. If you have not delved into Irving Penn's work, you should. Not just a quick fly by, or surf by. You cannot really get a sense of this guy looking at his images for about 1/2 second each. I was quite the radical - not just in his time. In any time. Again, it's all about the subtlety. His radical nature does not SCREAM at you. I guess that is why he was so successful for so many decades as both an artist and a commercial image maker.

Here is a brief story about how I found Irving Penn. Let's suffice to say I was not "educated" on the who's who in the photographic elite of all time - I am now, just not way back. When I was first shooting seriously in my 20's I had never heard of Irving Penn. I met him on a train as a young, clueless kid - I met him because he sat down at a table where I had  a bunch of portraits I had made the week before spread out in front of me making notes on them with a grease pencil and sorting them into a couple of different piles. He asked me what I was doing and I said a couple of patronizing words to sort of brush off this old guy - I was frustrated and busy and did not feel like getting into a stupid conversation about "what kind of camera" I used or anything. I wasn't mean or abrasive or ignorant. I quite literally told him that I was frustrated and was concentrating on my edits using a couple additional words.

Long story short - He lingered for a few moments, asked if he could look at one of the prints I had made some notes on, I said yes. He picked it up and looked at it. Put it down gently and said "You have a good eye - don't get so frustrated with the technical stuff". Excused himself, gave me his card and told me to look him up when I was in town.

I looked him up when I got home from that trip - that is how I found out who Irving Penn was. A week LATER. I never did "look him up" in the other sense he meant - I was far too embarrassed at my ignorance.


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