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.

At age 74, reflecting on a career that spans more than half a century, one of the foremost photographs of our time has brought together for this book the images that most powerfully speak for him over the years. He has accomplished them with his own recollections.

Irving Penn’s wide-ranging work here richly represented, includes his notable 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. Here, too, are examples of Penn’s private research and photographic obsessions—pictures of street refuse, of animal skulls, of the female nude, and his memento mori. There is, as well, a group of surprising recent drawings, shown for the first time. In all, Passage brings us 468 images, of which 71 are color.

Penn’s photographs are in the permanent collections of many major museums in America and abroad, including the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art in n New York, which honored him with a retrospective exhibition in 1984. This exhibition was later circulated to fifteen museums in twelve countries.

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

The book displays the full scope of Mr. Penn’s historic achievement: his fashion work for Vogue and fashion experiments for Issey Miyake, advertising still lifes, portraits of renowned artists, writers and other cultural luminaries, The book received a front-page review in The New York Times by Andy Grundberg and was released in 5 languages internationally.

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

The editorial director of Conde Nast, Alexander Lieberman, Mr. Penn’s longtime collaborator and friend, contributed an introduction. 

Year published: 1991


300 pages

468 images (71 color)

color plates