Irving Penn: the Master of Fashion photography

posted by Miss Lovissimo 9 January 2018

The Grand Palais in Paris dedicates a monographic exhibition to Irving Penn. I have been there yesterday with my friend Mila.


still life of waste at Irving Penn Exhibition

I’m normally not a big fan of Photography exhibitions, I find it quite boring…But I had two reasons to go:

  • Irving Penn is considered one of the Masters of Fashion Photography
  • I had Mila with me, meaning having fun in any case

So I went to Mila’s place close to Arc the Triomphe and after a pleasant walk, avoiding Chaps Elysees, we reached Grand Palais.

Irving Penn: Life and Fashion

Maybe you don’t know Irving Penn, but for sure you know his shoots or the ones inspired by his style. He has started to collaborate with Vogue America as Alexander Liberman’s assistant, in 1942, then to become the author of more than 160 covers and other legendary shoots for the magazine.


just a few of Penn’s covers for Vogue

It is impressive to constate how his shoots are still totally modern and how the whole history of fashion photography has been influenced but his specific way to use black and white, to emphasize the beauty of clothes and models by using magistrally the contrast between the elegance of the models and poor background. I can remember hundreds of pictures trying to catch Irving’s lesson. I’m quite sure that so can you.

Penn’s shoots for Vogue are the epitome of Fashion, a shared idea of unmatched elegance, charm, femininity. Some of the most famous pictures in the world have been created by him, as the Iconic ones for Christian Dior.

irving-penn-fashion-veletta carrellata fashion-avedon irving-penn-fashion-piuma IMG_1062 whoa effect irving-penn-chistian-lacroix model-playing-cards irving-penn-fashio

True colors

Wandering in the exhibition, I’ve been welcomed by familiars portraits, as the one Penn has done of Pablo Picasso, Truman Capote or Richard Avedon, discovering that those few are just a part of an impressive gallery of portraits he has done.

saul-steinberg richard-avedon rachel-carlson joan-miro-irving-penn cecil-beaton carlson-mcculler

Marlene Dietrich, Yves Saint Laurent, Colette, Marchel Duchamp, Audrey Hepburn, and many others, every one showing an intimate, simple face.

This shoot is dated 1947, 70 years ago. So when you feel you have been a genius with your last Instagram picture, remember always that, you too, you have learned from Irving Penn.

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