Penn, Irving

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1917-06-16
Death 2009-10-07
Americans
English

Biographical notes:

Irving Penn (1917-2009) was an American fashion photographer for Vogue Magazine.

Irving Penn was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, on June 16, 1917. His family moved to Philadelphia shortly thereafter. He attended the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art in 1934 and was a taught by Alexey Brodovich to be a designer; he became Brodovich's assistant in 1937 for one year. He tried his hand at painting, thinking this was his true vocation, but realized that he was wrong. Around 1942 he became a graphic designer for Vogue Magazine and was asked to shoot a cover himself after a photographer protested his simple design. He designed a simple montage of a glove, belt, and bag which became the cover of the October 1943 edition of Vogue. From then on he changed the world of fashion photography by using simple backdrops and focusing on the clothing and the models.

He met his wife, Lisa Fonssagrives (May 17, 1911–February 4, 1992), at a photo shoot for which she was the model. They were married in 1950 at Chelsea Register Office. Then in 1953 Penn set up his own photography studio in which he took private photographs and advertising work. From then on he turned away from fashion photography and took his technique into other areas of photography.

From the guide to the Irving Penn photographs, 1964-1986, (L. Tom Perry Special Collections)

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