Fashion‘For Me, Flowers Are Acts of God’: A New...

‘For Me, Flowers Are Acts of God’: A New London Exhibition Celebrates Irving Penn’s Spectacular Floral Portraits

-

- Advertisment -spot_imgspot_imgspot_imgspot_img

Penn’s work reached an early apotheosis in the ’40s and ’50s, those post-war years which W. H. Auden termed the “Age of Anxiety,” and Penn’s eye was correspondingly exacting, almost existentialist. By placing his subjects in isolation against a plain gray painted backdrop or a length of black carpet, granular and dust-flecked, he came as close to the truth as he could, and in the most direct of terms. “The photographic process for me,” he once explained, “is primarily simplification and elimination.”

Though he would only start on them in earnest in 1967, his flower pictures were no exception. Like a taxonomist identifying a rare and exotic species, his rigorous observation allowed his audience to see a rose as a rose but from a new angle, a fresh and particular point of view—a Penn portrait, perhaps.

American Vogue commissioned nine annual portfolios of pictures devoted to one flower. These were a Christmas gift to readers, published each December until 1975 (though the holding image of that final year’s survey, a dandelion, was, if you were horticulturally inclined, more of a weed).

The inaugural feature was “Lust for Tulips,” a selection photographed in Penn’s Fifth Avenue penthouse studio. On “Cottage Tulip (Sorbet),” the drops of water (probably used to refresh the bloom under the glare of Penn’s studio lamps) catch the light, the head itself having transformed itself into a fizzing, popping explosion of color. Raising photography to the level of painting was Penn’s lifelong motivation, and, in the end, one of his greatest achievements.

Poppies were next for 1968. A set-up of oriental poppies, three in a line, were beginning to lose their petals—one, in fact, completely denuded and sheltering behind its neighbor like a fashion model in lesser hands suddenly caught unawares in the spotlight. Peonies, orchids, roses, lilies, and begonias followed year on year, genus on genus…

Penn’s approach was dispassionate. He did not seek beauty for beauty’s sake, as the gradually disintegrating trio of poppies might attest. “I can claim no special knowledge,” he wrote in the introduction to Flowers, “that the reader might believe he has a right to expect of someone making a book about flowers.” He added that his delight in such ignorance allowed him to take pride in form and color and to remain unimpeded by considerations of rarity, or, as he put it, “tied to the convention that a flower must be photographed at its moment of unblemished and nubile perfection.”

Read More

Latest news

Mia X Is Proud Of The New Generation Of Women In Hip-Hop

A hot Saturday morning in New Orleans called for cold drinks and good eats, both delivered by rapper-turned-food entrepreneur,...

Hennessy’s Senior Vice President, Jasmin Allen, Speaks On Canelo’s Champ Status, Nas’ Brand Position, And The Spirit’s Family Ties

Hennessy has long been the drink of choice for the edgier side of Hip-Hop. For at least two decades,...

Fat Joe Explains Creation Of “Lean Back” Dance

Fat Joe dropped off a cool nugget of information about the historic dance associated with his 2004 Remy Ma-assisted...

Mannie Fresh On The Future Of Hip-Hop: “We Just Got To Change The Rules”

For a blazing Friday afternoon in Louisiana, Mannie Fresh is cool, calm, and collected. Escaping the sun to an...
- Advertisement -spot_imgspot_imgspot_imgspot_img
- Advertisement -spot_imgspot_imgspot_imgspot_img

Drake’s ‘Take Care’ Has Officially Spent 500 Weeks On The Billboard 200

On Wednesday (Oct. 5), Drake joined his brethrens Kendrick Lamar and Eminem as the third rapper to have...

Kanye West Claps Back At Khloe Kardashian + Calls Her A Liar In Response To Now-Deleted Tweet

Kanye West responded to a now-deleted post by Khloe Kardashian regarding his kids’ birthday parties and the custodial fight...

Must read

- Advertisement -spot_imgspot_imgspot_img

You might also likeRELATED
Recommended to you