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Culture

IRVING PENN, THE WIZARD OF BLACK-AND-WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY

One hundred years ago, Irving Penn came to the world, remembered today as one of the most influential photographers in history who got with his fashion snapshots and his unmistakable black and white portraits to mark a before and after in the image industry.

His work was marked by a mixture of classic elegance and modern minimalism, and the clarity of his compositions led Penn (1917-2009) to be one of the most recognized photographers by Vogue magazine readers, for which he worked since 1943 for more than 60 years.

Penn’s role in the world of photography, which he began to use as an artistic medium at a time when it was considered merely a form of communication, was so prominent that the Metropolitan Museum of New York (MET) has wanted to pay tribute to him in his centenary with an extensive retrospective.

“Celebrated over six decades for his influential work in Vogue magazine, Penn was above all a fashion photographer,” the MET, the largest museum in the United States where are exhibited great part of his works, said in a statement.

From his snapshots of street signs in New York or his fashion and style photographs, to his portraits of Peruvian natives or some of the most outstanding celebrities of the last century can be seen in the MET galleries.

“Photographs of his first haute couture era are masterpieces that set new standards for mid-century photographic representation, and continued to record fashion cycles year after year in exquisite images,” he added.

Born on June 16, 1917 in the small town of Plainfield, New Jersey, Penn studied at the Philadelphia Museum of Industrial Arts School where he met the Russian Alexei Brodovitch, who taught him modern art and design.

After a period as Brodovitch’s assistant and two years painting paintings in Mexico, Penn returned to New York in 1943, at which time he was hired by Vogue’s then-new artistic director, Alexander Liberman.

After World War II, Penn travelled around the world in his projects for Vogue, at which time he confirmed his liking for a studio photography in which he could control and minimize the elements that were part of his snapshots.

In 1950 he met model Lisa Fonssagrives in Paris, with whom he married in London in September of that same year.

From 1964 to 1971 he continued to travel to countries like Japan, Spain, Nepal, Cameroon, New Guinea or Morocco, where he inclined for portraits with natural light and began to use his famous improvised studio, a tent that he called a “limbo” in which their subjects could express themselves.

In the 1960s, a cut in magazine budgets and a consequent drop in the quality of the photographs led Penn to experiment with the printing methods used in the early twentieth century, which allowed him to control the shades more precisely.

In the 1970s, Penn moved to a family farm in Long Island, New York, where he printed with platinum, a traditional method, three of his most celebrated series of snapshots: Cigarettes, Street Material, and Archeology.

Penn’s talent with the camera also led him to have access to important personalities, who portrayed in black-and-white snapshots of simple style and in the foreground with which he managed to faithfully capture the identity of their subjects.

Among them, there are Truman Capote, Salvador Dali, Grace Kelly, John F. Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Woody Allen, Al Pacino, Carson McCullers, Alberto Giacometti, Marlene Dietrich, Alfred Hitchock, David Bowie and Robin Williams.

In the last decades of his professional career, the photographer expanded his creative field, collaborating with long distance artists such as the Japanese Issey Miyake, until he died in 2009 in New York at the age of 92.

New York, June 15, 2017, EFE/Practica Español

Ejercicio de comprensión B.2 (Comprehension B.2)

Lee la noticia y responde las preguntas. (Read the news and answer the questions)

Congratulations - you have completed Lee la noticia y responde las preguntas. (Read the news and answer the questions). You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%. Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%
Your answers are highlighted below.
Question 1
La noticia trata...
A
de la historia de la fotografía.
B
de una efeméride.
C
de un estudio sobre la obra de un fotógrafo.
Question 2
En el texto se dice que...
A
se cumple el primer centenario del fallecimiento de Irving Penn.
B
se cumplen 100 años de la primera fotografía que hizo Irving Penn.
C
se cumple el primer centenario del nacimiento de Irving Penn.
Question 3
Según el texto, la obra de Irving Penn...
A
apenas influyó en el mundo de la fotografía.
B
es un hito en la fotografía.
C
pasó desapercibida.
Question 4
Este fotógrafo...
A
estuvo a punto de trabajar para la revista 'Vogue'.
B
estuvo trabajando para una importante revista de moda.
C
estuvo desvinculado del mundo de la moda.
Question 5
Las fotografías en blanco y negro de Penn son muy conocidas.
A
Verdadero.
B
No se sabe.
C
Falso.
Question 6
Con Penn, la fotografía empezó a relacionarse con el 'arte'.
A
No se sabe.
B
Falso.
C
Verdadero.
Question 7
Muchos personajes famosos fueron fotografiados por Penn.
A
Verdadero.
B
Falso.
C
No se sabe.
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