The National Portrait Gallery: Irving Penn

Irving Penn: Portraits at The National Portrait Gallery until the 6TH of February 2010:

I went to see the exhibition today as I suddenly realised it would be finishing soon. It costs £10 and is very good value for money, especially as so much of the national portrait gallery is free so you can spend extra time wandering around the other exhibitions.

As I expected the selection of prints were fantastic – with plenty of well known classics – and the quality of the printing and presentation was brilliant. It was truly inspirational and humbling as a photographer to not only see and appreciate the artistic qualities of the work but the technical ones as well. Added to this was the fact that many of the prints were originals, printed at the time the photographs were taken. The overall tonality of the prints was perfect, though i have to say I was surprised and slightly disappointed there weren’t more platinum-palladium prints.

Personally speaking I would have loved to have seen somewhere some details about what film he used and what paper he printed on, but that is only me, as I’m sure the average viewer would not care. I also feel a small sense of unease when the window mount around the photograph is flush with the image as I feel I may be missing something underneath. I like to see the edge of the print, especially with someone like Irving Penn when the framing is so critical. But again it is a small criticism as this was not the case for all the photographs.

If ever anyone does not understand why a few of us still hang on to our film cameras they should go to exhibitions like this. The differences may seem subtle at first but believe me they are there.

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