"I myself have always stood in the awe of the camera. I recognize it for the instrument it is, part Stradivarius, part scalpel."


Happy birthday Irving Penn!


Irving Penn (June 16, 1917-October 7, 2009) was an American Modernist photographer. His work was published in Vogue magazine. He is best remembered for his fashion photography, but he also photographed food, scenery, and many important figures from the 20th century art world.




Penn was born in Plainfield, New Jersey to Harry Penn and Sonia Greenberg. He attended the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art, studying drawing, painting, graphics and industrial art under Alexey Brodovitch.

After he graduated, he'd already made a bit of a name for himself, with drawings published in Harper's Bazaar. He worked as a freelance designer for two years before taking over the position of art director at Saks Fifth Avenue. This led to a job designing the layout of Vogue magazine after a year of traveling and photographing Mexico. He was successful there and was offered the opportunity to try his hand at photographing for the magazine.


Irving Penn for 'Vogue'



Penn opened his own photography studio and eventually had a list of important clients including General Foods, De Beers, Issey Miyake, and Clinique.


Cuzco Children, 1948

Penn became best known for his fashion photography, but his work included an array of other subjects. He was the first photographer to effectively capture subjects against a simple grey or white backdrop. His work was part of the Modernist movement.

Penn married fashion model Lisa Fonssagrives and they had one son.


Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn in Cristóbal Balenciaga Mantle Coat, Paris, 1950

Selected works


Simone de Beauvoir



Hells Angels (San Francisco), 1967. Appeared in 'Look' magazine, January of 1968. source




Dorian Leigh and Maurice Tillet, 1945.


Truman Capote

Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Monday, 16 June 2014
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