10 B&W Portraits of Celebrities Taken by Irving Penn

10 B&W Portraits of Celebrities Taken by Irving Penn

MonoVisions Black & White Photo Contest 2024

Penn’s first photographic cover for Vogue magazine appeared in October 1943. Penn continued to work at the magazine throughout his career, photographing covers, portraits, still lifes, fashion, and photographic essays. In the 1950s, Penn founded his own studio in New York and began making advertising photographs.

Best known for his fashion photography, Penn’s repertoire also includes portraits of creative greats; ethnographic photographs from around the world; Modernist still lifes of food, bones, bottles, metal, and found objects; and photographic travel essays.

Irving Penn was among the first photographers to pose subjects against a simple grey or white backdrop and he effectively used this simplicity. Expanding his austere studio surroundings, Penn constructed a set of upright angled backdrops, to form a stark, acute corner.

Penn captured the faces, and personalities, of celebrities from movie star Spencer Tracy to author Anaïs Nin, gradually changing his approach to portraiture over the years. In the 1940s, Penn positioned his sitters in a narrow corner created by two bare, dull theater flats, a device of his own creation. The set both physically and psychologically confined the sitters, putting them on equal footing with Penn.

Isabella Rossellini

Isabella Rossellini. Photo: Irving Penn

Ingmar Bergman

Ingmar Bergman. Photo: Irving Penn

Miles Davis

Miles Davis. Photo: Irving Penn

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Philip Seymour Hoffman. Photo: Irving Penn

Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese. Photo: Irving Penn

Carson McCullers

Carson McCullers. Photo: Irving Penn

Nicole Kidman

Nicole Kidman. Photo: Irving Penn

Rudolf Nureyev

Rudolf Nureyev. Photo: Irving Penn

John Updike

John Updike. Photo: Irving Penn

Truman Capote

Truman Capote. Photo: Irving Penn

MonoVisions Black & White Photo Contest 2024