Vendredi 27 novembre 2009
I was waiting for this parcel. A book. Damaged, as I like them. A book dated 1960, first edition. A book of photographs by Irving Penn, huge photographer who
passed away on the 7th of October 2009 in his Manhattan appartment.
The title itself is just perfect : "Moments preserved".
I opened this book, and the first words caught me. So accurate, so true.
" There is a brief moment in the process of taking a picture when the photographer forgets the existence of the camera,
forgets that there is between him and his subject a cold, intricate mechanism. During that instant, he stands in a sense naked, unassisted, left to see what his inner eye seeks to see. This
"disappearance" at the moment of creation is the miraculous quality of the camera. Not only does the instrument, the tool, disappear to become part of the artist, but it also records and fixes
the instant of telling vision."
"To catch these instants, Penn takes an enormous number of photographs, and keeps on taking them until his
subject, thinking that the ordeal of self-exposure is nearing the end, begins to lower his guard and permits his real image to appear. Sitting for a portrait by Penn is never an indifferent
experience. He fences emotionally with his prey. If he is to succeed, he must. By his presence, by his actions, and above all, by the communication of his own reactions, he has to arouse his
model. When Penn is photographing, his apparent shyness disappears, and he willfully but gently takes charge."
INTRODUCTION by Alexander Liberman
Sometimes people think that it can be easy to perform a portrait. What a joke. It is the most difficult
exercice, because, to cut a long story short, what you get is what you give. As a beginner, or a cheater, you may wish to use props, objects, accessories. But when finally you get rid of
everything, irony, distance, humour, tricks, gimmicks, when you just stand in front of your subject, there is no room for lies or disguise. That's when the truth appears. May appear. Well, the
photographer's truth, at this very moment.
Avedon said it perfectly : "A portrait is not a likeness. The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion. There is no such thing
as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth."
He said also what nobody wants to hear : “My portraits are more about me than they are about the people I photograph.”
And he said what might be a truth : “I always prefer to work in the studio. It isolates people from their environment. They become in a sense... symbolic of themselves. I often feel that
people come to me to be photographed as they would go to a doctor or a fortune teller - to find out how they are.”
Avedon was a Master. Penn was a Master.
"I myself have always stood in the awe of the camera. I recognize it for the instrument it is, part Stradivarius, part
Here are Truman Capote, Igor Stravinsky, Marlene Dietrich, Jean Cocteau, Richard Avedon, Alberto Giacometti, Pablo Picasso, Tenessee Williams & Francis Bacon