DUBAI: The Beirut-based Mina Image Center is hosting a showcase of works by late American fashion photographer Irving Penn, marking the first time the iconic artist’s snaps have been show in the region.
Set to run until April 28, after it kicked off on Jan. 16, the exhibition focuses on Irving Penn (1917-2009), who is recognized for his high fashion images and for his portraits of the artists, writers and celebrities who defined the 20th century.
The exhibition in Beirut is titled “Untroubled” and draws inspiration from an exhibition organized by the Pinault Collection in 2014 at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice.
The exhibition explores Penn’s technical and artistic commands — a set of self-devised rules he is famous for scrupulously sticking to in order to create almost flawless images.
Photos showcased in the exhibition hail from four decades of Penn’s repertoire, but rather than arrange them chronologically, the curators in Beirut chose to loosely arrange them by subject matter.
Trained as a painter, with photography as a side hobby, Penn studied commercial art and was hired in 1943 as assistant to Alexander Liberman, art director of Vogue magazine. The photographer soon established himself as the most innovative professional in the field and went on to produce his own distinctive style.
His photographs often feature simple backdrops of paper or canvas and tend to focus on the subject — be it a celebrity or a cigarette butt — with an almost scientific, unflinching glare.
“The image is decontextualized, intense and demanding of attention,” the Mina Image Center notes on its website.
Penn was known to experiment with printing techniques and investigated innovative ways to produce photographs throughout the 1960s, including platinum-palladium printing.
Practiced in the early 20th century, the platinum process created an image that is virtually unlimited in its tonal variation. The aesthetic possibilities of the platinum printing process inspired Penn to revisit earlier work and re-print images in a range of styles. The constant reworking of his photographs formed the basis of Penn’s creative approach, according to the Mina Image Center.
The Mina Image Center is a non-profit organization that aims to showcase photography and artworks from the region and around the world in its space in Beirut.