Irving Penn Biography
Irving Penn, an American photographer most notably known for his more than sixty years of work and sophisticated fashion images in numerous issues of Vogue magazine, was born in Plainfield, New Jersey. His rise in art and photography began when he first attended the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Arts in 1934. While he initially viewed himself as an aspiring painter, his career course shifted when he began studying design with Alexey Brodovitch, his teacher and mentor. During his time studying with Brodovitch, Irving Penn studied painting, drawing, industrial arts, and graphics. This encounter ultimately allowed Irving Penn to work alongside Alexey Brodovitch as an assistant at one of America's oldest fashion magazines, Harper's Bazaar.
After graduating in 1938 from the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Arts, Irving Penn moved to New York to continue work for Harper's Bazaar and other creative organizations as a freelance designer and illustrator. At this time, he bought his first camera with the money earned from Harper's Bazaar and experimented with photography, taking photos of industrial buildings and window displays. In 1943, Vogue hired Irving Penn to design the cover of its magazine, but his work was interrupted by his wartime service as an ambulance driver. He eventually returned and resumed his job after the war, contributing his own photographs for some covers. By 1950, Penn became one of Vogue's prominent editorial, fashion, and portrait photographers. Irving Penn's photos and collaborations with celebrated fashion model Lisa Fonssagrives were especially successful during this time.
Penn's photos have been internationally recognized and celebrated by critics and the public alike. His exploration from illustration and advertising to photojournalism and portraiture allowed him the ability to travel and capture stunning photos around the world. In the last decades of his life, his creativity flourished and Penn's photos appeared regularly in Vogue. He also published several critically acclaimed books such as Moments Preserved (1960) and a Small Room (1974). Penn's photographs have been exhibited in a number of institutions around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the National Portrait Gallery in London.