Friday, 23 November 2007

Irving Penn Private View @ Hamiltons Gallery

Hell's Angel (Doug),San Fransico, 1967

Got back from Photo Paris on Sunday (will write up on blog in the next few days, its quite long a long post!) Whilst at the event I was very kindly invited by Charlie Fellowes at Hamiltons Gallery(Mayfair, London) to a private view of Irving Penn’s prints from the 60’s. The show appropriately entitled ‘Flower Power’ was a collection of Penns platinum/palladium prints, silver gelatine, colour dye transfer prints and pigment prints from that decade. The private view took place last wednesday evening.

The colour dye transfer prints of flowers were quite stunning, the intensity of the colours was very special, and nothing I have ever seen before. The prints of flowers were almost clinical in detail reminisant of Mapplethorpe's flower portraits, compositionally the flowers looked perfect. I believe Penn shot these for Vogue in late 80’s for their Christmas editions.

Single Oriental poppy, Irving Penn 1965, Colour Dye transfer

For those interested in Colour transfer prints Wikpedia defines them as :

‘The dye transfer process is a continuous-tone color photographic printing process, popularized by the Eastman Kodak Company in the 1940s. It is sometimes referred to by such generic names as wash-off relief printing and dye imbibition transfer printing. The process involves making three matrices for each color, which absorb dye in proportion to the density of the relief. A color print is formed, by transferring the dyed film matrices in physical contact onto a mordanted dye receiver paper. Eastman Kodak Company stopped making materials for this process in the mid 1990s. The dyes used in the process are very spectrally pure compared to normal coupler induced photographic dyes, with the exception of the Kodak cyan. Also the dyes have excellent light and dark fastness. The dye transfer process possesses the largest color gamut and tonal scale than any other process, including inkjet. Another important characteristic of dye transfer is it allows the practitioner the highest degree of photographic control compared to any other photochemical color print process.’

Penn’s platinum/palladium prints on show were also exceptional and were shots of Hippes and Hell angels, great characters and they all had a real instensity to them. I remember reading a desription of Penn's time with the 'Angels' in which he said 'They were like coiled springs ready to fly loose and make trouble. The delays and provocations they could produce were endless. Fortunately the hypnotizing lens of the camera and the confinement of the studio held them in check long enough for the exposures to be made'. The prints did not have the kind of intensity I thought they might have had having read so much about them in he past, however on closer inspection their was a beautiful subtlety to them with velvety blacks which the process is so well known for producing. I would have liked to have seen them without glass in front of them but alas.

My friend and I arrived half way through the private view and the gallery was buzzing with atmosphere, I was told to expect the whole glitterati to be out in force and this seemed to be the case. Yasmin Le Bon arrived fashionably late looking stunning and had a quick look around at the prints, she did look in a buying mood which can only have been good for the gallery. Overall it was a really enjoyable evening.

The prices for the collection of prints on show ranged from $20,000 to $120,000 and the exhibition runs through to 12th January for further information please goto