WAYS OF SEE­ING

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There’s no mis­tak­ing an Irv­ing Penn pho­to­graph: from the min­i­mal light grey or white back­grounds, to dif­fused light­ing and im­mac­u­late com­po­si­tions, his vis­ual aes­thetic seems etched into the very fi­bre of fash­ion and cul­tural his­tory. His strik­ing black-and-white pho­tog­ra­phy of the 1940s and ’50s seemed tai­lor-made for the ar­chi­tec­tural fash­ions of de­sign­ers such as Dior and Ba­len­ci­aga, of­ten shown off by model and muse Lisa Fon­ssagrives, who even­tu­ally be­came his wife. Over his nearly 70-year ca­reer, Penn was also a sto­ried por­traitist who cap­tured pre­vi­ously un­seen sides of such per­son­al­i­ties as Tru­man Capote, Sal­vador Dali, and Pablo Pi­casso. Mean­while, his still-life and beauty pho­tog­ra­phy pushed the ex­tremes of his art, of­ten cap­tur­ing a sense of the grotesque in mo­ments of splendour. See the most com­pre­hen­sive ex­hi­bi­tion of the pho­tog­ra­pher’s work to date, “Irv­ing Penn: Cen­ten­nial,” on view now at The Met Fifth Av­enue un­til July 30, 2017.

CLOCK­WISE FROM LEFT: MARLENE DIETRICH, NEW YORK, 1948; UNGARO BRIDE BODY SCULP­TURE (MARISA BERENSON), PARIS, 1969; ROCHAS MERMAID DRESS (LISA FON­SSAGRIVES-PENN), PARIS, 1950; TWO MIYAKE WAR­RIORS, NEW YORK, 1998; GLOVE AND SHOE, NEW YORK, 1947

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