The iconic photographer best known for his crisp and stunning fashion photographs for Vogue died in Manhattan today at the age of 92.
The photographer's style was singular: He was known for his clarity of focus and his simplicity -- he was one of the first to pose subjects against a simple gray or white background, for example. By eliminating the business of the background, he brought a more intense focus on both his subjects (Martha Graham and Marlene Dietrich among them) and, in the case of his Vogue work, the clothes. The eye was invariably drawn to the lines of the clothes, the draping of a dress, the curve of a shoulder.
Ever the perfectionist, Penn's images conveyed a sense of elegance and style that made him one of the most sought-after photographers of the 20th century -- his photographs have appeared on more than 150 Vogue covers. Indeed, it seems an oddly tragic pairing to to have such a profound loss within the industry during a week already marked with signs of turbulent times within print.
Penn's work, however, extended past the glossy pages of Vogue. As The New York Times put it, "Imbued with calm and decorum, his photographs often seemed intent on defying fashion." His work has been exhibited in museums all over the world (in fact a large show at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles just opened in September), and his portrait of Gisele was even auctioned at Christie's for the stunning sum of $193,000.