Tuesday, 28 June 2011


Irving Penn is one of my favourite photographers of all time. Hence, you can imagine my excitement when I stumbled onto an old copy of Photography Annual (1966!) with a lengthy interview with Penn himself in a bookstore in Florence.

Here are some of the quotes from this brutally honest yet very educational interview.

About colour:

"I think that b&w pictures are intrinsically finer than colour. I think that I have never seen a really great colour photograph."

About photographing famous people:

"It's painful and very exhausting. It's a kind of surgery; you cut an incision into their lives, you move into their circumstances and then you pin them down while you penetrate even further into their personalities. It's the most painful kind of photography and after almost every sitting I wish I hadn't gotten into that kind of thing. It's a matter of controlling a person and yet wanting not to control him too much so that he can still reveal something that is true of himself."

About portraits:

"This is of course problem A in portrait photography - to get past the facade that people would like to present."

About people disliking their own pictures:

"Most of the time the ones who dislike the pictures the most confirm to me that the picture has hit home and is probably truer than I know. Nobody minds a boring picture, they mind a picture that has gotten to the soft core."

About commercial photography:

"The ideal commercial photograph is one that is highly sensual. It is however a controlled and used sensuality. (...) As a matter of fact, advertising clients of successful companies seem to value the sensual picture more than editors of magazines do, because they know that is a way to get at buying the public."

All photos by Irving Penn (1917-2009)


  1. LOVE Irving too
    thanks for this great find

  2. thank you for sharing, with beautiful photos! love them!

  3. Irvin Penn jest geniuszem! Jego zdjecie to arcydziela, wydrukowane na papierze, ktore sa ponadczasowe. Bardzo sie ciesze, ze tworzysz i robisz zdjecia.
    From Warsaw with Love.
    Tran Quoc Anh

  4. I like it that you choose to show these photographs of Ivring Penn. I personally really like these photographs to. So nice for sharing.

  5. Thanks for sharing! Irving Penn will live on through his work.

  6. great thankyou when you can please share more of the interview