Irving Penn's Work Seen by a Museum Curator

Visiting an art museum is so interesting but also so intimidating for the non-expert public. Masterpieces can be seen as very ordinary work when the story behind it is left unknown or is misinterpreted. Fortunately enough, there is at least one curator per exhibition, and they are the persons you want to turn to to get the most out of your visit. A guided tour can offer you so much insight on an artist's work that it becomes an excellent opportunity to learn more about your craft.

Until recently, I found art galleries boring and I never understood what their interest was for me as a photographer. Looking at a picture on a wall is great, but I could see the same pictures on the Internet, right? That was until I had the chance to have a private museum guided tour. It then finally clicked. Analyzing others' work, learning about the artists' process, or even just hearing the curator speak with so much respect and love for the shown masterpieces is a better experience than what many workshops could ever offer you.

But don't take my words for granted, watch the above video. You'll be surprised what's hidden behind some of Irving Penn's pictures. The way Sue Canterbury presents a few of his series and images is quite enriching. You might never look at his work the same way you ever had before. Also hearing her talk about how Penn made some of his prints gives me just one desire: trying to print in the darkroom.

If you liked this video, be sure to subscribe to The Art of Photography on YouTube. It's amongst the finest photography channels out there, and the content is very refreshing. Ted Forbes (the channel's owner) has reviewed some gear, however, the best videos he has created so far are the ones in which he talks with or about other photographers.

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1 Comment
Matthew Saville's picture

Saw Irving Penn's "Small Trades" work at the Getty a few years ago. It was absolutely stunning, both technically and also, more importantly, its actual content. The body of work was truly moving. I've you've never seen a platinum print on a museum wall, you need to.

Photographers these days ought to put a little bit more focus on the documentary importance of image capture, instead of just worrying how many likes they have or how many followers they've amassed. Social media and the clickbait phenomenon as a business model has not been kind to photography itself.