The Photographs of Irving Penn                                    

 Introduction by Alexander Lieberman

In 1980, Nicholas Callaway, founder of Callaway Editions, went to see the great photographer, Irving Penn, who was at the height of his powers after a forty-year career. Mr. Callaway had only published one book, but wanted to convince Mr. Penn to assemble his life’s work in a single volume. It took eleven years, but in 1991 Passage was released. The shared mission was to produce the most complete record of Penn’s work in a form that would surpass all other photography books. Unprecedented efforts were undertaken to achieve this result. The pre-press and printing was supervised by Richard Benson, the world’s foremost printing authority, and Thomas Palmer, and the entire book was press proofed before printing. The book was printed in twelve colors: five passes for the black and white plates, and five for the color, with two layers of varnish.

Reflecting on a career that spanned more than half a century, one of the great photographs in history brought together for this book the images that most powerfully spoke for him over the years. He accompanied the images with his own recollections.

This retrospective volume of Irving Penn’s wide-ranging work included many of his iconic photographs for Vogue magazine: his portraits of the great, the celebrated, and the anonymous; his photographs of elegant women in New York and Paris fashions; and his celebrations of men, women, and children in faraway villages, jungles, and savannahs on five continents. Also included were examples of Penn’s private research and photographic obsessions—pictures of street refuse, of animal skulls, of the female nude, and his memento mori. In all, Passage included 468 images, of which 71 are color.


Penn’s photographs are in the permanent collections of most major museums in America and abroad, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. This exhibition was later circulated to fifteen museums in twelve countries.

Alexander Lieberman, the legendary editorial director of the Conde Nast Publications and a distinguished painter, sculptor and photographer, wrote the introduction, “An American Modern,” recounting his close association with Irving Penn through 48 years.

Passage remains the definitive one-volume monograph of Mr. Penn’s work.

Year published: 1991


300 pages

468 images (71 color)

color plates