And then there's Irving Penn...

Still Life : Irving Penn Photographs, 1938-2000

Irving Penn and Richard Avedon are two of the five monolithic and critical photographers of the 20th century. Both were masters of portraiture and fashion but while Richard Avedon focused like a laser beam on making images of people Irving Penn was also a dominating presence in the world of still life photography.

This book contains a comprehensive look at some of the best still life work in each stage of his life as a photographic artist. It'll cost you eleven venti lattes at Starbucks (or the equivalent) but if you have not seen his still life studio work before it will change your perception of studio photography, design and creativity. I collect Penn books like other people collect parking tickets and I am happy to have a book about Penn that is so tightly focused on one important aspect of his work.

That guy you're following on (fill in the blank website)? Chances are most of his work is somehow informed by Penn. So skip all the imitations and "homages" and go to the source. You will not be disappointed.

Still Life: Irving Penn Photographs, 1938-2000


  1. I was lucky enough to see a bunch of Penn's work first hand. My brother-in-law was his assistant for a few years at the peak of his career. What a wonderful, graceful, photographer. I always tie him and Avedon together as they worked in a lot of the same disciplines. I have slight preference for Penn. his work was quieter but lasts in my mind a bit longer. Avedon, of course, was, and remains, one of my four or five favorite photographers ever. A great tribute.

  2. I prefer still life to portraiture. Therefore I'm a Penn fan. Both did outstanding fashion work.


  3. I've seen this book in person. It really is outstanding.

    I wish Phil Marco (probably bigger than Penn in still life) would put out a book: http://staging.ba-reps.com/artists/phil-marco

    1. Phil Marco did some great work. I too am surprised that someone hasn't done a book of his work. I'd certainly buy it.

  4. Terry Heffernan is also amazing.


  5. Irving Penn did so much fine photography.
    My first book was "Worlds in a small room".
    It's very dangerous, to buy any of his books.
    They are addictive in a big way. A good thing!
    I am so impressed with his use of a Rolleiflex.
    In fact, often the same model as mine, the Automat.
    Yes, the one with that terrible poor sharpness Tessar.
    Portraits, Fashion and Still Life, are so wonderfully rendered.
    Yes he did use large format and Leica 111 with Visoflex.

  6. I agree with Avedon and Penn, but the intriguing question is who will be the next three. My vote: Cartier-Bresson, Eggleston, Ed Weston, but it's a tough choice


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