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Irving Penn’s Magical Universe


In 1991, at the occasion of the release of Penn’s book, by Nicholas Callaway, Paris Match published this article.

Irving Penn, 74, is now reflecting on his past. The century passes by before our eyes, transformed by the vision of a master. Whether he’s photographing the “mud men” of Papua New Guinea, a painter, a writer, a boxer, a star, cigarettes butts or a plate of bouillabaisse in Barcelona, he goes beyond appearances. He’s an entomologist who captures the soul of people and things. His work with light seems to interrupt time. His vision of the world left its mark on fashion, commercial photography and art history. Next month, Éditions Nathan will publish the album En passant, a monument to the glory of the ephemeral made eternal.


“I don’t photograph what I see. That doesn’t interest me. I only photograph what intrigues me, what I can discover.” From the first page, the tone is set. Irving Penn is one of the most demanding, the most tortured, the most meticulous of modern photographers. These photographs are taken from the book En passant, which will be published next month [in 1991 — ed.]

At 300 pages filled with 478 images, the work is a monument to one of the greatest photographers of the last half-century.

Read the full article on the French version of L’Oeil.


Article published in Paris Match #2211, October 10 1991.

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