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Mimicking the Masters: Irving Penn

American photographer Irving Penn was known for taking fashion photographs, still life, and portraits. He also worked for Vogue Magazine where he contributed glamour shots. To this day, he is still considered one of the best when it comes to fashion photography.

Photo via Love Janey

Irving Penn was an art student when he started working for Harper’s Bazaar Magazine where some of his works were published. After a few years, he became the Art Director for Saks Fifth Avenue and spent an entire year working for them, when he decided to travel across America and take photos. Upon his return to New York, he was offered a position at Vogue where he became a photographer for the magazine. His photos were used as covers, fashion spreads, and even editorial essays.

If you’re a big Irving Penn fan, here are some tips that might help you achieve the look of his photos:

Keep it simple.
Irving Penn used simplicity as a means to draw attention to the subject. Some of his popular photographs show the subject wedged between a tiny space. The set-up was unconventional, but it brought out the subject’s personality. You might want to try your hand with this technique. Keep the surroundings simple and use them as a way to get more out of your subject. You can set up your own unconventional backdrop to draw out your subject’s personality.

Still life.
Aside from being a fashion and portrait photographer, Irving Penn was also known for his still life photos. Try your hand at photographing things that you see everyday. Combine objects with different textures on a single photograph, or focus on just one item. Even these simple objects may speak volumes when they are photographed.

Keep it clean.
Irving Penn’s works are known to be simple and clean. A minimalistic approach is your best bet to achieve simple results. See the beauty or flaw in your subject and know that characteristic alone may be enough to make the photograph powerful. As much as possible, use natural light especially when taking portraits. Although Irving Penn used studio lighting, he was also a fan of natural light when it came to taking photos of people.

Read more articles on Mimicking the Masters. Sources for this article include this post on Masters of Photography, this Wikipedia entry on Irving Penn, and this post on DP Tips.

written by jeanmendoza

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This is the original article written in: English. It is also available in: Nederlands, Deutsch, 한국어, 日本語 & Italiano.