As we bring another year and our first decade for the century to a close in a few days, I have been reflecting on my first seven months of blogging. I had not known a thing about blogging, let alone visited any blogs. Well, all this has changed now.
With 17 post published and another 33 at Four Seasons in a Life, I am truly thankful for those who have stop by, had a look at my photographs and read the words to my thoughts. I am especially grateful to my regular readers who have chosen to follow, including the ones who elected to follow anonymously; I cherish your company just as much.
As we are about to enter into 2010, I look forward to our continued friendships, sharing each other’s art, ideas, and personal stories in the coming weeks and months. Maybe even one day we may have the opportunity to talk on the phone or possible meet in person.
I do not know what will await us in the coming year; I do know that visiting your blogs is like comfort food we long for on a cold evening or when we have a need to feed that sweet tooth in the afternoon. Your blogs have enriched my life on many levels, from knowledge to inspiration, to guidance, as well as offered a break from the days routine with a little much needed humour.
I thank you for your presence in blogesphere
and for sharing your world
with me and all of us.
Irving Penn, June 16, 1917 – October 7, 2009
Regardless of ones profession, there are those in our field whom we admire and excel to be like, so when I heard from a friend more than a month after of Irving Penn’s passing away on Wednesday, October 7 at the age of 92, I sank into my chair feeling hopeless, feeling I had just lost my best friend.
Even though I never met Irving Penn, his unique style had a significant impact upon my own work when photographing people. I first became aware of his work when I purchased “Worlds in a Small Room”, which was published in 1974 by Penguin Books. This thin square publication now well worn with kindness over the past thirty years, it is still my most favorite cherished photo book.
What was striking about this collection of black and white photographs was that the sets were bare of any distractions; this way the focus was always on the individual or groups pictured. In addition the lighting remained consistent, always a cool natural northern light that produced considerable details and deep dark shadows, which were rich in depth.
Despite a number of the photographs in the book were taken inside a building with numerous large windows facing the north that flooding the interior with an even flat neutral light that painters love and Irving embraced, the majority of these photographs were shot in a large ‘make-shift’ tent that Irving traveled with. It’s large size, that of a modern day living room, allowed Penn complete control of the daylight, while the tents canvas also served as a perfect backdrop.
The combination of these features I applied to my photography when photographing clients and friends, though my tent was the inside of a studio and the northern light a single strobe light inside a large soft-box, it emulated very well Irving Penn’s vision. The only thing I did was add a large fill card opposite the light source to bounce light back at the subject, softening the shadows and also maintaining the details in the darker areas. Even today a number of my digital still-life photographs are set in a room that has the northern light exposure.
Besides Irving Penn's lighting approach to photograph, I admired his compositional style of angles, shapes and the drama the elements created as he filled the frame with the person or model when working for Vogue magazine. Above all, Irving Penn never stopped growing as an artist by resting on his laurels. He was always exploring new ideas, not only in what he photographed, but also investigating and trying different printing methods, including producing a number of his images as palladium prints.
With his passing, he was the last survivor of three who defined for several decades what fashion photography was all about. Now Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton and Irving Penn are all together again. May they share a glass of wine and reminisce how their lives paralleled one another.
Irving Penn, June 16, 1917 – October 7, 2009
Richard Avedon, May 15, 1923 – October 1, 2004
Helmut Newton, born Helmut Neustädter, 31 October 1920 – 23 January 2004
Irving Penn’s “Small Trades” exhibit at The Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
September 9, 2009–January 10, 2010.
Virginia A. Heckert and Anne Lacoste
J. Paul Getty Museum
272 pages, 9 1/2 x 12 inches
259 tritone illustrations
ISBN 978-0-89236-996-6 hardcover, $49.95
NOTICE: All images featured in this article retain their original copyrights to whom they were issued.