Our penchant for all things green shows no sign of faltering and here at Glasshouse we’re always on the look out for new inspiration from nature. That’s why Irving Penn’s Flowers is our latest floral fascination.
Legendary American photographer Irving Penn was renowned for his work within the fashion industry from the early forties and was a true pioneer of modern photography as we know it today. During his later life, Penn switched his lens to still life subjects, capturing everyday objects such as slices of cake or cigarette butts, however it was his delicate portraits of flowers that we find the most captivating.
First published in 1980, Flowers by Irving Penn contains 73 vividly coloured photographs of 7 of the world’s most beautiful flowers; the poppy, lily, orchid, begonia, peony and the tulip. Now re-issued, the book is a sumptuous glance at the natural wonder of the flower, each image drawing you in with it’s close attention to the subject’s details; from dew drops to shrivelled petals. The book follows the different life stages of the flowers, capturing the early bloom and eventual wilt of the plant, all from Penn’s closely angled lens.
Irving Penn made his name working for Vogue, where he shot his first cover in 1943 after working as a graphic designer for the magazine. He favoured a stripped back, austere photographic approach, preferring to shoot models against a plain backdrop with minimal clutter in the picture. This was revolutionary at the time, heralding a new modern style of image-making which was carefully thought-out and favoured simplicity. His debut Vogue cover was a prime example of this, a spartan-like set-up featuring a glove a belt and a bag. After this, he went on to shoot 150 covers for Vogue and had a career spanning 50 years.
Penn was once quoted saying “I can get obsessed by anything if I look at it too long. That’s the curse of being a photographer” and Flowers has a similar effect. You can’t help but pour over the delicate details of each shot and wonder just how he got each image quite so perfect. This is definitely a book for coffee table pride of place and one to be kept and treasured. If you’re fascinated by nature’s diversity and adore this kind of full-colour still life composition, then let Flowers be the latest book to bloom on your bookshelf.
Flowers by Irving Penn is available to buy here.
Words: Lucy Vincent