9 October 2009

Photo of the week, so to speak!

John Marin was photographed by Irving Penn in New York in 1947. I took this digital photograph of (one of) that photograph earlier this year, not realising how reflective the glass was until I looked again much later. I like the way the hands play.

Mr. Penn was one of the world's most remarkable photographers and his work is some of the world's most distinguished in both fashion and art realms. I'm not sure why, but Penn's images comfort me. They are still, calm, knowing; but also stubborn, defiant, repetitive. I like these qualities in people and photographs.

On one hand the photographs of Irving Penn seem to divulge endless detail in that which they depict (super-representational), while on the other they completely resist classification as representational images. Penn often makes it very difficult to discover more than the superficial about the person fixed in his portraits, for example, yet his subjects appear rested and weighted - they allow contemplation.

Considering his portraits, I wonder what, therefore, we could glean if not the hint that they are representing the unrepresentable? Maybe the repetition reminds us to think of the works first and foremost as photographs, ones created by a very amazing photographer, who creates his photograph no matter who is before his lens. Thus it is the coming together of x subject and Penn - at a junction in time, in momentary mutuality - that creates an image that is simultaneously exactly representational and representationally ambiguous.

Perhaps it is this that attracts us so strongly to photographs more generally. We see not only the subject of them; we see not only ourselves reflected back (literally, or as humans, in shared existence); but we also see the photographer shining through - in relational trace - and somehow just as present as that which he depicts.

Irving Penn was born on 16 June 1917 and died on 7 October 2009.


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