Irving Penn, at the MET
I went uptown to see the Irving Penn show at the MET. It was Tuesday, mid-day, and the museum was packed. I couldn’t help but think about how poorly managed the MET has been over the past few years to the point where there is not only a significant loss in the endowment but over 2500 people had to be laid off. The outcome was that the Executive Director resigned as he should have but should he have ever been hired? Sitting on the board of the High Line, where I am always thinking about sustainability and smart fiscal decisions, I wonder if we will see more institutions who are not forward thinking fall into the same mess. I bet we will.
Regardless, the Penn exhibit was great. He might be known as a fashion photographer but these photos that walk us through his journey, show much more. Someone with attention to detail that had a unique ability to capture someones essence. It begins with a camera. The first of many he used over the years.
The next room begins with two still life pieces that I just love. Still Life with Watermelon, 1947. Seeing fresh food as model 70 years ago makes you pause.
After Dinner-Games in New York, 1947. I couldn’t help but be drawn to this. It definitely speaks to those times.
These were the twelves most photographed women in 1947. Walking through the history of many of the models and celebrities of that day shows how things in many ways have remained the same.
Vogue covers, 1948-52
Pastry Chefs, Paris, 1950.
He did a spread called “small trades” for Vogue of skilled trade people. He did this in Paris, London and New York. This ended up to his largest body of work.
Penn made this photo in 1947 as a reaction to his daily spend with “skinny girls with self-starved looks”.
Pablo Picasso, 1957
Yves Saint Laurent, 1957
The social cigarette that kills in 1950. Penn hated cigarettes losing a dear friend to lung cancer.
He traveled the world from 1967-71 which was inspired by his time abroad during WWII. This is from Worlds in a Small World. Woman in Morocco with three breads.
Mouth for L’Oreal, 1986. His work still resonates today. Photography is changing and there is something truly delightful in seeing all these photos from a different time in a few rooms. Funny thing is that they could have been taken today.