Irving Penn: Centennial

A preview of the exhibition Irving Penn: Centennial, on view at The Met Fifth Avenue from April 24 through July 30, 2017.

Featuring Jeff Rosenheim, Curator in Charge, Department of Photographs, The Met; and Maria Morris Hambourg, Independent Curator and Former Curator in Charge, Department of Photographs, The Met

The most comprehensive retrospective to date of the work of the great American photographer Irving Penn (1917–2009), this exhibition marks the centennial of the artist's birth. Over the course of his nearly 70-year career, Penn mastered a pared-down aesthetic of studio photography that is distinguished for its meticulous attention to composition, nuance, and detail.


Maria Morris Hambourg: Penn was the pinnacle of the art of photography for the last half of the 20th century. He had a kind of comprehensiveness that very few photographers, if any, have ever had.

Jeff Rosenheim: Irving Penn emerged in the 1940s along with many other photographers working for Condé Nast and other publishers. One of the things that he wanted to do was to explore the idiom of fashion and to go beyond it to art.

Maria Morris Hambourg: The amount of freedom that he had was extraordinary. The magazine was his playing field, but he could also progress in his art, because he had to work every day for 60 years. He would describe to me the moment of taking those pictures, how he was so taken with what he was doing that he wanted to go on and on until, as he put it, something godly would happen.

Jeff Rosenheim: We spent weeks and weeks thinking about how to put together a show that would tell all the stories we wanted to tell.

Maria Morris Hambourg: We decided that the thing to do was major chapters in his career.

Jeff Rosenheim: It covers the gamut from the beginning to the end: it's fashion, it's still life, it's street material, it's cigarette studies, it's almost everything that the artist did in the best form. The Metropolitan will have the most complete and extraordinary exhibition of Irving Penn's work anywhere in the world.

Director and Producer: Kate Farrell
Editor: Sarah Cowan
Interviewer: Christopher Noey
Camera: Wayne De La Roche, Dia Felix
Jib Operator: Kelly Richardson
Lighting Director: Ned Hallick
Gaffer: Foster McLaughlin
Sound Recording: Thomas Meyers
Original Music: Austin Fisher
Audio Postproduction: David Raymond
Production Coordinator: Lisa Rifkind
Production Assistant: Karlie Efinger

Irving Penn photographs:
© The Irving Penn Foundation
© Condé Nast Publications, Inc.

8-mm film footage of Penn at work in Morocco by Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn

© 2017 The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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