American photographer Irving Penn is a highly accredited for his fashion photography and portraits and his time spent working at Vogue magazine. Penn was born in Plainfield New Jersey during the year 1917. As a young adult, he attended the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Arts where he was taught by Alexey Brodovitch on the principles of modern art and design. Penn worked in New York as Brodovitch’s assistant during Brodovitch’s time at Harper’s Bazaar before leaving to spend time in South America.
He later returned to New York and became the art director at Vogue. Penn spent nearly 60 years at vogue, shot 163 covers, and was admired dearly by Anna Wintour. She believes he changed our perception of what is beautiful. His fine art, refined, and minimalist style is what made him such an icon of his time.
Penn is known for his striking photography skills and his preference for in-studio photography. He was modern and transformative in his ideas and even began photographing nudes before it was socially accepted. Due to the controversy, the photos were seen as provocative and not released until decades later. Some of his most popular photographs include the 1950 cover of Jean Patchett, as well as portraits of Truman Capote and Spencer Tracy. Penn relied on using his subject’s character to create the best photographs.
He utilized posture and facial expression to better focus on the subject’s essence instead of having glamorous backdrops. Penn’s passion for photography and art is felt in his photographs and is what makes him the iconic photographer that he grew to be known and loved for.