Irving Penn has passed away, marking the departure of possibly the last of the photographers of the golden age of couture.
When I broke this news to a youngish magazine editor and lamented the passing of a truly great lensman, he said that there was nothing to feel bad about since Penn had lived to the ripe-old age of 92.
It was at that precise moment, in the heat of a muggy October night, that I realised the girth of the generation gap between post-Flickr he and pre-DSLR I.
In a New York Times tribute published a day after he died, Penn was described as “one of the 20th century’s most prolific and influential photographers of fashion and the famous”.
To me, he was more than that. He represented a generation of photographer-as-artist, one that depended on craft and composition to put out great pictures. Although Penn, technically accomplished as he was, did manipulate his prints in the darkroom, he did so to enhance the photographs, never to conceal their shortcomings.