Thursday, October 8, 2009

Irving Penn

I take professional photos on the weekends at a commercial studio. Typically they consist of toddlers in their matched outfits looking off to the side as the pay attention to the parents behind me. Sometimes they laugh, sometimes I have to baby talk, sneeze, or refer to stinky feet. It's fun, and then it's not. But the photos that develop 30 minutes later are quite a different story. They are memories imprinted on paper. Years later mothers will look at them and tell stories of the mischievous smiles or missing teeth. But I have no control on how to set up these pictures. The studio has done all of it for me. The lights sit at my sides or above as if looking down directly at the subject. I can only choose from the backgrounds availble and from the props we replace every year. My brilliance lies in the clicking of the shutter release button and the twists and turns to zoom in or out. But I do nothing more. For that, my heroes are those whose photography capture mor than just smiles.

Irving Penn will remain in my memory as one of the most important photographers of my lifetime. I could be biased and say that some of his best work has included models in beautiful gowns and displaying flawless complexions. But I think his best work are portraits, especially those who caputure the soul of the subject. A favorite of mine is Pablo Picasso with his eye transporting you to a land you've never seen. His paintings float in my memory and I think of the Old Guitarist. I think that's my favorite Picasso painting. And with Irving Penn's portrair, Picasso is my old guitarist playing the strings he knows so well.

I hope generations to come can see the power behind the images captured by both Penn and Picasso. They ought to be remembered in distant dreams.

Irving Penn

Picasso's Old Guitarist