Irving Penn


Penn, 1985. Still Life with Triangle and Red Eraser

Irving Penn’s Still Life with Triangle and Red Eraser (1985) is a collection of largely incongruous, disparate objects.

The subjects, placed on a plain off-white surface, appear to be illuminated by a single light source.

Lighting is harsh with sculpted shadows and an immediate transition from light to dark – a trait seen in many of Penn’s still life images.

Why did Penn produce this image in this way?

The innovative, experimental nature of modernist art is clearly visible in this abstract image.

Characteristic throughout his career, with this still life, Penn is producing new imagery, in a new way for a new age.

As much as I like this image, it jars with me – there is a strong sense of dissonance in this image, I feel that this is largely because of the claustrophobic arrangement of subjects which, touching or overlapping, are left without space in which to breathe.

I don’t think this image, in terms of style, could be further removed from my photographic practice.

The suggestion that I examine the early work of Penn has been made.

Why? Phrased differently, how is this relevant to my photography?

I think the key point is to produce work which takes me away from that with which I feel comfortable, to take my photography in a new direction.

So, on the way to producing my final major project, there will also be some experimental photography.

My intention is to analyse Penn’s images in order to understand the techniques he employed so successfully. I will then endeavour to recreate some of his images before finally producing my own version.

To learn from such a master is first to analyse, then to imitate, then to apply in one’s own creations.

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