Irving Penn Project / by Victoria Lemos

I am majoring in Society, Ethics & Human Behavior but this quarter I enrolled in an arts class called History of Photography and have recently had the utmost pleasure in completing a research essay/art project on Irving Penn. This class has taught me so much on the historical progression of photography and the impacts its journey has made along the way; being used as a tool during societal tribulations to record and document the effects on American people and ways of life. Prior to taking this class I knew very little about the story of photography and now I have gained a deeper sense of appreciation for this art form. At one point being refused as an art, photography has definitely taken its place in this world as something to be held with great power even when taken for granted. 

Penn was an American photographer known for his fashion photography, portraits, and still lifes and his career included work at Vogue magazine, and independent advertising work for clients. Here lied a split for Penn between photographing for the purpose of commercial use (money)  and photographing for his own personal exploration (enjoyment). He was born In 1917 with the bulk of his work being produced throughout the 1950s - 1980s. He died in 2009. 

For my project I chose to emulate four of his still life photos. At first I chose to emulate his fashion portraits but I am already so familiar with that genre so I decided to challenge myself with something not so familiar to me. There lies an incredibly distinctive level of abstract expressionism about Penn’s work. His photos exude vintage style and timeless charism as can be seen throughout not only his personal work, but also his commercial work. My goal with this project was to place emphasis on Penn’s consistent style: even though he divided his work between commercial and personal, these still life photos (originally shot for Vogue and other commercial purposes) still hold his creative touch .My research on Penn, his life and photography journey intrigued me beyond what I initially expected, and I’ve been encouraged to continue my research on other historical photographers in order to learn about the great variety of contributions that have been made within the progression of this art form.