Irving-Penn, 1974 , New York, Cigarette No.37
Penn began his career taking photographs for the covers of American Vogue in 1943 and became one of the most influential photographers of the post-war period. Penn usually worked in the studio environment (as would be adopted by Robert Mapplethorpe later) and has often used natural light. His attention to the full range of tones and textures possible in black and white photography led him to master rare and difficult techniques. The depth, density and luminosity of his blacks give his images an unparalleled range of tone and texture. Here are Penn’s later photographs of cigarette butts, litter, shot in just the same way as his models and fashion photographs.
Camel pack 1975, New York
Cigarette No. 86, New York, 1972
Portraits are often some of the most powerful records of people and moments in time left behind in the history of art. Many artists have immortalised themselves or more accurately created the persona of the suffering artist or debonair society dandy. Van Gogh, Picasso, Rembrandt – the list is endless for those that have used the portrait to great effect.
Robert Mapplethorpe can be viewed alongside these establishment icons, his body of photographic work is notorious for its explicit content which overshadows the actual quality of what he was doing. His self portraits were created at seminal points through his career – we find him initally represented as very much the 1980’s New York bohemian, right through to the harrowing final self-portrait about a year before his death.