Passage: A Work Record

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Product: Passage: A Work Record
Retailer: Amazon
Designer: Irving Penn

Passage: A Work Record Hardcover – November 20, 1991

Irving Penn (Author, Photographer), Alexandra Arrowsmith (Author), Nicola Majocchi (Author), Alexander Liberman (Introduction)

  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf; 1st edition (November 20, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679404910
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679404910
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 11.1 x 1.4 inches

Penn, 74, selected the memorable images in this career retrospective in collaboration with Callaway Editions editors Arrowsmith and Majocchi. His photo-portraits (Auden, Chagall, Hitchcock, Spencer Tracy, Marlene Dietrich et al.) seem to spring out of a conspiratorial partnership with his sitters. He also has done impressionistic advertising photography that Corot might envy. Painterly still lifes are as provocative as the anatomically probing nudes. Penn’s continually surprising imagination turns to animal skulls, cigarette butts, multicolored lips, street garbage–odd mementos to “the ultimate sadness of all vanity,” as Liberman, editorial director of Conde Nast, writes in his perceptive introduction. Along with a steady stream of fashion photography that resembles a species of cultural anthropology, Penn, as we see here, has recently done powerful color drawings in a biomorphic cubist style. This album includes 71 tipped-in color plates and 397 black-and-whites, along with Penn’s running commentary. The printing is of superb quality.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.


In 1941 Penn, then an associate in Vogue ‘s art department handling the magazine’s layouts, was encouraged by Alexander Lieberman to pick up a camera and do the actual photography instead. Since then, he has been producing images at once penetrating and mysterious. While Penn’s incisive portraits of both the famous and the unknown–particularly ethnic peoples he posed carefully in studios–capture the specifics even as he renders the sitters timeless, his graceful yet boldly inventive fashion photography has gone far beyond the standard expectations of that genre. In fact, perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this overview is its demonstration that, in the hands of a master, the line between fashion photography and art photography simply does not exist. Penn provides some rather brief commentary on the images displayed here, but the photographs themselves–thoughtfully laid out, beautifully reproduced–make the book. For all libraries that collect photography books seriously.