Best of the Best: Irving Penn


"A good photograph is one that communicates a fact, touches the heart, leaves the viewer a changed person for having seen it. It is, in a word, effective." – Irving Penn

Irving Penn (June 16, 1917 – October 7, 2009)

For seven decades, Irving Penn was an exceptional fashion and portraiture photographer. His signature style depicted a combination of sophisticated elegance and classical minimalism. He believed that “less is more.” Because he preferred stark simplicity, his models and subjects were isolated in rich light and shadow and they possessed serene politesse which almost defied the extravagance and luxury of fashion.

He shot more than 150 covers for Vogue magazine in different editions. Aside from fashion and portraiture photography, Penn’s forte branched out into a number of different genres, such as ethnographic studies, nudes, still life, and travel. His career flourished through his continuous experimentation and exploration of photography and its limitations. Remarkably, his penchant enabled him to merge the border lines between art and commerce.

Penn took pictures of outstanding personalities from the worlds of literature, music, and the arts, like Truman Capote, Salvador Dali, Christian Dior, T. S. Eliot, Duke Ellington, Alfred Hitchcock, Georgia O’Keeffe, Grace Kelly, Al Pacino, and Pablo Picasso to name a few. He also took pictures of whatever he wanted, like butchers, animal skulls, craftsmen, cigarette butts, ballerinas, and even Hell’s Angels. But no matter how classy, cultural, or life-less his subjects were, the resulting photographs were like immobilized poetry with great depth and graphic precision.

Salvador Dali, 1947 © Irving Penn via
Alfred Hitchcock, 1947 © Irving Penn via
Rock Groups, 1967 © Irving Penn via
Truman Capote, 1948 © Irving Penn via
Woman with Roses, 1950 © Irving Penn via masters of photography
Cecil Beaton with Nude, 1946 © Irving Penn via
Marlene Dietrich, 1948 © Irving Penn via
Georgia O’Keeffe, 1948 © Irving Penn via
Harlequin Dress (Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn), 1950 © Irving Penn via
Barnett Newman, 1966 © Irving Penn via
Pablo Picasso, 1957 © Irving Penn via
Al Pacino, 1995 © Irving Penn via
Ballet Theater, 1947 © Irving Penn via masters of photography
Bouchers, 1950 © Irving Penn via masters of photography
Three Asaro Mud Men, 1970 © Irving Penn via masters of photography
Three Rissani Women, 1971 © Irving Penn via masters of photography
Girl Behind Glass, 1949 © Irving Penn via
Cigarette 17, 1972 © Irving Penn via masters of photography

Which of these Irving Penn photographs strike your liking the most? What other fashion and portraiture photographers would you like to be written about? Read more about the Best of the Best Series.

written by basterda on 2011-04-13 in #lifestyle #still-life #portraiture #irving-penn #black-and-white #fashion #classic-photographers #best-of-the-best-series


  1. okonsten
    okonsten ·

    Penn have inspired me so much with his purity of style and simpleness.

  2. caroni
    caroni ·

    great Photographer, like his Portraits, ....Al Pacino, Pablo Picasso and Truman Capote

More Interesting Articles

  • Lorenzo Antico's 'Final Shot' Presents Last Shots From 33 Films

    written by Julien Matabuena on 2015-05-12 in #world #lifestyle
    Lorenzo Antico's 'Final Shot' Presents Last Shots From 33 Films

    A movie's parting shot is a crucial element in the sense that it could either make or break the lasting impression that it would have on its audience. It could either wrap things up quite nicely and leave viewers satisfied, or it could do otherwise. For many, it's often the first thing that comes to mind long after the final credits have rolled out.

  • Art Hunter Sardinas x Simone Legno from tokidoki

    written by mindofmyra on 2014-10-02 in #people #lomoamigos
    Art Hunter Sardinas x Simone Legno from tokidoki

    We asked some of New York’s hottest designers to lend their talent in designing some of our La Sardina DIY cameras, and we are very excited to share with you the masterpiece of Simone Legno from tokidoki! Simone Legno is the creative director and co-founder of tokidoki, which stands for "sometimes" in Japanese. He chose this word because he feels “everyone waits for moments that change one’s destiny, by chance or by meeting a new person.”

  • Photo Fit For An Exhibition

    written by mindofmyra on 2014-08-26 in #competitions
    Photo Fit For An Exhibition

    Have you ever thought that your photos were worthy of having its own exhibit? Well, maybe it is! Take a chance and show us your most creative photographs. From the accidental shot that was taken from your hip or even the posed perfection you ask of your subjects, send us your best photos that define you as a person.

  • Shop News

    Colorsplash your World!

    Colorsplash your World!

    At 30% off you can now color your analog images with 12 different color gels. Experiment with 35mm slide film and play with the built-in color flash for the most intense colors!

  • My First Lomo Affair: Jourdanlynch and the Holga 120N

    written by icequeenubia on 2014-11-20 in #lifestyle
    My First Lomo Affair: Jourdanlynch and the Holga 120N

    Jodo and his friend used to make fun of the Holga 120N's plastic body and doubted its capability to take even simple photographs. After shooting a roll with it, he instantly got impressed by the artistic portraits it produced. Have a glimpse of these photographs that led him to have a change of heart!

  • Filmmaker David Lynch as Photography Curator

    written by Kwyn Kenaz Aquino on 2015-03-25 in #world #lifestyle
    Filmmaker David Lynch as Photography Curator

    "The photographer remains the same but it’s the viewer that is the magic part of the whole process," David Lynch says in this video by LA Review of Books. "Every viewer who stands in front of a certain photograph—they’re getting a different thing."

  • Photo of the Day by rwins

    written by cheeo on 2014-10-27 in #news
    Photo of the Day by rwins

    Is this person standing in the sky? A change in perspective can definitely shed new meaning to your photograph. Congratulations to rwins for winning Photo of the Day!

  • Shop News

    Immortalize your best shot on Aluminium!

    Immortalize your best shot on Aluminium!

    Carefully enlarged from your negatives onto premium photographic paper by lab professionals, each picture is a unique piece of craftsmanship.

  • Transient Living: Armitage & McMillan in Denver, Colorado

    written by maliha on 2015-01-07 in #world #locations
    Transient Living: Armitage & McMillan in Denver, Colorado

    If you want to know the heart of a person, peek inside his/her wardrobe! And no, nobody famous said that; I only just made it up. But really, don't you think it's true? After all, the way we dress screams our personality; at least for most of us. And that is why, as soon as I land on a new city, one of the things I absolutely must do is find the local boutiques. Sure, I love the fancy chain boutiques as much as the next person, but there's just something else about a local clothing store. It's unique!

  • The Instant Project

    written by suizidekid on 2015-06-23 in #world #lifestyle
    The Instant Project

    It was a cold and cloudy winter day in 2012 when I came up with the idea of compiling photographs of people's faces. I decided that the most personal way to do it is through instant shots. They are one of a kind and you immediately have something in your hands.

  • Lomography & The Red Bulletin: Your Moment. Beyond the Ordinary

    written by analogeanstalten on 2014-08-20 in #competitions
    Lomography & The Red Bulletin: Your Moment. Beyond the Ordinary

    Have you ever experienced feeling goosebumps all over your body, that your heart seems to jump out of your ribcage, your common sense is set on pause and you just breathe and enjoy the moment? Together with The Red Bulletin, we want to see YOUR moment beyond everyday life. Are you ready for the photographic #yourmoment #beyondtheordinary challenge? Take part in our photo competition! The two best shots will be awarded with a camera, and the first 500 to register will get a one-year free subscription of The Red Bulletin!

  • Shop News

    Standard Photo Development Services

    Standard Photo Development Services

    Done shooting and want your films to be processed? We can process your colour and black & white 35mm, 120 or 110 films! Development, prints and scans are also included. (Service availability depends on your markets)

  • Storytelling with Petzvals: Alex Timmermans and the Art of Collodion

    written by jacobs on 2015-04-03 in #people #lifestyle
    Storytelling with Petzvals: Alex Timmermans and the Art of Collodion

    Not long after Alex Timmermans purchased his first digital camera at the turn of the century, he quickly realized the trappings of digital photography couldn't fulfill his personal photographic desires. He then began searching for a more challenging process — one that wasn't so predictable. His journey eventually landed him back at the roots of analogue photography, specifically employing the wet plate collodion process using original Petzval lenses. This antique photographic process found in him a renewed inspiration and has since become his passion, which is evident in both his words and his images.

  • Introducing The New LC-A+ Instant Camera!

    written by shhquiet on 2014-08-01 in #news
    Introducing The New LC-A+ Instant Camera!

    The Lomo LC-A+ is famous for a good reason: it delivers an amazing, distinct effect that makes every photo a unique masterpiece. Now you can enjoy this in an instant with the new LC-A+ Instant Camera!

  • The Daily Hex: Narvik

    written by icequeenubia on 2014-11-11 in #news
    The Daily Hex: Narvik

    Are overexposed photographs a big no-no to you? Maybe you'll have a change of heart after seeing today's The Daily Hex gallery!