Irving Penn, 1917-2009


Photographer Irving Penn died yesterday in Manhattan at the age of 92. He shot everything but was best known for his stately but expressive black and white portraits, such as these of a vulpine John Osbourne and Truman Capote as a tired executive, the burnished effects of which required much attention to the developing process (one of Penn’s tricks was to use platinum or paladium rather than silver nitrate). His style was also suitable to high fashion and he was long associated with Vogue, but Penn gained a cachet which outstripped that of other fashion photographers gone high-art, partly because he worked so often in austere b&w, partly because he nabbed some exalted models, and partly because his style asserted itself in even the most familiar subjects.