“Sensitive people faced with the prospect of a camera portrait put on a face they think is one they would like to show the world….Very often what lies behind the facade is rare and more wonderful than the subject knows or dares to believe.” —Irving Penn, 1975.

American photographer, Irving Penn, was known for his fashion, portrait and still life photography. As a student, he studied drawing, painting, graphics and the industrial arts before working as a freelance designer in the fashion industry. His first professional photographic work was a cover for Vogue in 1943.

Fashion photography was Penn’s bread and butter, but he also found success in portraiture and ethnographic photography. Penn was among the first photographers to use a simple, austere backdrops and he found posing subjects against stark white or grey colours to be very effective.

This 8mm film footage, shot by Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn in 1971, shows Irving Penn at work in his portable studio on location in Morocco.