Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Small Trades by Irving Penn

The well known Vogue photographer Irving Penn, didn't exclusivly shoot the famous, the pretty and the nude in the world of high fashion. From the beginning he was a still-life photographer. He did a large series of portraits of more common people with the implements of their trades. From the start it was a feature for Vogue about the workers of Paris, but he continued long after that. The entire series is 252 portraits and was bought by the Getty museum in 2008. The Getty is also the publisher of the book.

The book is quite hefty and very well made, with heavy, luxurious paper. In the beginning there is an example contact-sheet with some slight variations of the pose of the subject, and some pictures from the back. That way one can get an idea, if only a slight idea, how he worked. There is also a picture of his Paris studio with a large window on the wall and one in the ceiling. In addition, he has a reflector and a mottled back-drop, but that is it. It looks positively frugal by today's measure.

The pictures as such are reproduced in outstanding quality. They depict, apparently, comfortably posed workmen and women with one or two tell-tale tools that they use in their work.

It is a brilliant book for anyone interested in photography in general or in portraiture in any medium.

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