Discuss an Irving Penn photograph

Discussion in 'Discussing a ****** Photograph' started by Jim Chinn, Sep 9, 2006.

  1. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    If you consider Adams work the pinnacle of landscape imagery and Bresson the originator of the decisive moment genre then Penn has to be considered as the master commercial photography.

    B&W or color, portraits, fashion or products, he set the bar for all who would follow.

    Trained early in life as a painter, his work usually transcends the medium and redefined what can be considered art in photography. He worked across all formats and processes and his subjects were as varied as native tribal peoples of New Guinea, fashion work for magazines such as Vogue and discarded cigarette buts and packs which he transformed from trash to things of beauty.

    Anyway, here is something fairly recent. Beauty Treatment with Gauze Mask, New York (1997)
     

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  2. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I'm a big fan of Irving Penn as well, and agree with much of what the above poster stated. I will add, I think his still life work is incredible. The gutter trash... there are some cigarette butts... I mean... who else could have made such incredible images of something as inocuous and ignored as a cigarette butt found in the gutter?

    Not to mention the skulls!

    Edited to add... sorry, didn't discuss this photograph! Looks like those skulls, huh? Thanks for posting, Jim!
     
  3. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    Nice, three posts and all of them talking about Penn instead of the picture :tongue:
     
  4. djklmnop

    djklmnop Member

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    Tell me more about Sean Penn. I hear he's a great actor!
     
  5. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    Its different; its daring.
     
  6. Ray Heath

    Ray Heath Member

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    so what's your contribution

    this image is a poor example of Penn's work, it's well lit, maybe, but not particularly interesting
     
  7. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Point taken...

    it actually is a rather disturbing image. What sort of torturous device is that wrapped around this face? I'm guessing it's some kind of intense beauty treatment, but it has the look of prisoners' being blindfolded. And, as said before, it reminds me of some of his skull images. All the beauty treatments in the world won't change what is at the core of every face.
     
  8. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    The photograph: In a word, disturbing! I see what is an incredibly UGLY face, and can only wonder at the woman beneath this grotesque mask.
    I "read" a statement questioning the value of the ordeals some models - and non-models (if there ARE "non-models") endure - other than this particular "mask" procedure. Case in point: another procedure - plastic surgery, and how a - bordering on psychotic - quest for the "perfect" facial configuration WILL result in - after ten or twenty attempts - unnaturally bizarre results - see Michael Jackson, Joan Rivers.
    After these flights of thought, I've landed. The true beauty lies in nature, and simplicity. Instead of insanely trying to pursue perfection, I will appreciate, and USE the so-called "imperfections", not only of my models, but in the rest of my work as well.
    BRAVO, Mr. Penn, BRAVO!
     
  9. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    I found it interesting because it reminded me of many of the tribal masks worn by native peoples he photographed in the 50s and 60s. I simply liked the texture of the mask (looks almost like burlap) and the smoothness of the "mud" that Penn probably added to define a mouth and nose. Its that wonderful texture and hollow eye sockets (and whispy bits of hair?) that makes it interesting.

    If you look at his work with Aboriginal peoples, masks and such adornments were considered beautiful and a sign of status and position in the group.
    Here we see the mask as an ugly artifact that somehow will metamorphasize the person underneath. This mask is designed to facilitate covering up something (self percieved ugliness?). Aboriginal masks project an inner personna of the person wearing it. Two different cultures and two different ways to look at masks, hiding something or projecting something.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 11, 2006
  10. Alex Hawley

    Alex Hawley Member

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    Maybe it was a satirical comment on the lengths people go to to achieve youthfull beauty.
     
  11. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    I think it's gorgeous. It's a distillation of a lot of what I see as Penn's obsessions: textures, masks, art as expressed by primitive man, art as a primal instinct to express oneself.

    I wonder if he's made one of his superb platinum prints of this image. This is certainly a good candidate for it.
     
  12. Gay Larson

    Gay Larson Member

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    All beauty treatments make you look incredibly ugly when you're having them done.....However, I was particulary disturbed because the lack of any eyes. It looks hollow, empty and yet the wisps of curls indicated a woman is there. I'm not sure I like it at all. Who would hang this on their wall??
     
  13. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    The photograph is intriguing, but as hard as I look at it, I cannot see that there actually is a face behind the mask. I think it is just the mask itself.

    Matt
     
  14. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    Oh course, he could have just been in the mood for a laugh and had some sacking, a mannequin head and some oil paints laying around...

    Cheers, Bob.
     
  15. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    I agree with this.

    A further exploration with masks and everything they imply.


    Michael
     
  16. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    Yes, but somehow I feel that it is a masculine mask. I can't imagine anything feminine behind it at all.