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Irving Penn has died at age ninety-two.

Penn died Wednesday at his apartment in New York City, said his brother, film director Arthur Penn. The cause was not given.

In 1943, Penn started contributing to Vogue magazine and became one of the first commercial photographers to cross the chasm that separated commercial and art photography. He did so in part by using the same technique no matter what he photographed -- isolating his subject, allowing for scarcely a prop and building a work of graphic perfection through his printing process.

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Very sad. He was the first love of me and my photographer friends -- we'd flirt with the idea of Avedon but always return to Penn. Penn & Avedon -- and other gods of photography such as Diane Arbus and Louise Dahl Wolf all came out the head, thigh of the same crusty and enigmatic teacher -- Alexei Brodovitch. Like Brodovitch ("Ballet" 1933-37 ~ Cotillion) Penn took great ballet pictures, like the one of Tanaquil Laclercq from the Balanchine's (he's at her feet) "Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne." Here's the likewise crusty John Szarkowski on Penn:

“The calm spareness of his vision and manner in his pictures was breathtaking,” John Szarkowski, director of photography at New York's Museum of Modern Art once wrote. “Seen against the background of the various trilling, ornamental styles that seemed intrinsic to the very substance of fashion magazines, they seemed to represent a new beginning.”


Boston Globe obit

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When I worked for "Art & Antiques" Magazine in the mid '80's, Irving Penn's studio was on the top floor of our building. There were always interesting people heading upstairs, with a Baryshnikov sighting being talked about for months.

Rest in peace, Mr. Penn.

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like the one of Tanaquil Laclercq from the Balanchine's (he's at her feet) "Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne."

That’s an interesting picture – the girl standing at center with her body partially exposed, while the men, older and fully clothed, cluster at her feet, with all facing the camera. I think like Avedon Penn will be remembered chiefly for his fashion photography and portraits - nothing wrong with that. I always admired especially his photos of his wife, the elegant and beautiful Lisa Fonssagrives, who had a background in dance and a gift for posing.

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