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Irving Penn: Small Trades [Hardcover]

by Virginia Heckert, Anne Lacoste
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 15, 2009 0892369965 978-0892369966 1

Photographer Irving Penn (b. 1917) is renowned for his innovative contributions to portrait, still life, and fashion photography, and a career that has spanned more than six decades at Vogue magazine.  In 1950, Vogue assigned Penn to photograph workers in Paris, and thus his monumental work The Small Trades began.  Created in 1950 and 1951 in Paris, London, and New York, The Small Trades consists of portraits of skilled tradespeople dressed in their work clothes and carrying the tools of their respective trades. Capturing the humble coal heaver and the crisply dressed waiter with equal directness, Penn’s arresting portraits also underscore fascinating cultural differences.

The Small Trades was Penn’s most extensive body of work, and he returned to it over many decades, producing ever more exacting prints. Two hundred-six unique images from the series are flawlessly reproduced in this book.  In addition, the introductory essay describes the history and context of The Small Trades series and its importance to Penn’s career and the history of photography.  An interview with Edmonde Charles-Roux, the chief editor for French Vogue from 1952 to 1966, who assisted Penn on the assignment in Paris, provides fascinating insights of the Paris sittings. 

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Editorial Reviews


 “The nobility and individuality of Penn’s subjects, and the simple setting, enhanced only by the sitters’ tools of their trades, became staples of Penn’s equanimous style.  Published by Vogue in 1951, the photographs have now been collected in a coffee-table book, which is both a paean and swan song to a lost era.”—British Vogue

 “These photographs . . . are respectful, consistent, beautiful, intelligent, daring. And unmissable. A brilliant catalogue.”—Financial Times

  “Penn . . . was a master of portrait photography. . . . This collection is of ordinary, anonymous workers—plumbers, bakers, house painters, and street artists in Paris, London, and New York.  Each and every one is compelling.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer

 “Rather than picture [his subjects] where they worked, Penn brought them into his studio to pose like models against a sooty gray paper background.  The smoky light of his black-and-white prints makes them look like living sculpture, carved into individuality by their life experiences and their times.”—San Francisco Chronicle

 “More than 200 prints are reproduced in this finely executed tribute to a master.”—Professional Photographer

 “The broadest view yet of one of Penn’s most important and appealing early projects. . . . Small Trades has the heft of history—it’s a sociologist’s dream—but it’s also one of the year’s most fascinating books of fashion photographs.”—Photograph Magazine

 “This magnificent book, with its outstanding images, is a pleasure to hold.” —Choice

"The book is a work of art in its own right; an object of beauty, and a Noah's ark for vanishing trades."—The Jewish Chronicle

About the Author

 Virginia A. Heckert and Anne Lacoste are associate curator and assistant curator, respectively, in the Department of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: J. Paul Getty Museum; 1 edition (October 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0892369965
  • ISBN-13: 978-0892369966
  • Product Dimensions: 12.3 x 9.8 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #306,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In Praise of the Common Man November 1, 2009
Irving Penn is an established giant in the field of photography having supplied the editors of Vogue Magazine with his elegant fashion photography for over fifty years. While many would question such a famous glamour photographer's interest in the beauty of the common man, in this excellent volume, a catalogue from the current J. Paul Getty Museum exhibition curated by Virginia A. Heckert and Anne Lacoste, evidence is presented and takes a memory trip back to the years 1950 and 1951 when Penn focused his considerable talent on photographing the people who do the daily jobs considered less than glamorous in the cities of New York, London and Paris.

Using the studio setting in much the way his fashion images were created, Penn uses for each of these portraits a textured wall that captures an array of light and shadow in subtle ways and in front of this backdrop he invited bakers, cleaners, maids, and craftsmen of all trades to pose, face forward, alone and in pairs, and gives these simple 'models' the same treatment of dramatic light and shadow eloquence that had made him famous. The results are an embarrassment of riches of capturing the most genteel vision of 'Small Trades' available in one collection. This is a book of beautiful art as well as an appreciation of the people who make our lives work smoothly. A fine reminder of Irving Penn's enormous talent. Grady Harp, November 09
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Early Work by a Great Master November 10, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As I write this, Irving Penn recently passed, leaving me very sad that one of the world's greatest photographers ever will not be making new photographs. My first exposure to the "Small Trades" opus was via an early 1960s Photography Annual. I was blow away by the masterful photographs then; they looked completely un-like anthing else I'd seen then and they continue to have an arrested in time quality now.
Published to document the inception of the "Small Trades" collection by the Getty, this book is a must have for photo buffs and for me recaptures the magic of the first time experience, and then some. Among other fascinating nuances, book shows several spreads of early silver prints beside later platinum-palladium refinements; I think close study shows Penn's devotion to and perfection of minimalism. The quality of reproduction here is really excellent.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Irving Penn: Small Trades November 11, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Beautiful work - Very well printed and binded - It's very interesting to see that piece of work made in a very simple way, only with available natural light and to compare gelatin silver prints with platinum ones.
One of the most interesting Penn work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Gorgeous!! April 5, 2011
By papaya1
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Who knew that such luscious photographs could be taken of the working people in and around the 1940s? Irving Penn is a master and this book captures the incredible depth of the blacks and whites of the images. It' even possible to see the difference in the two printing processes. I treasure this book. As with others I've ordered through Amazon it came beautifully packaged and in a timely manner. Thanks!!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Irving Penn - Small Trades November 24, 2009
By K. Ross
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I own virtually every Penn book published and I must say that this book has the finest reproductions yet of this group.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my most valued books.... October 23, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
...even though I only received it this afternoon. Penn extracts the small-trade practitioners from their environment into a stark but not sterile studio with no reference to their lives except uniforms and tools of their trade. The photos are full length, very contrasty (I am not sure it was a stylistic or technical reason - I found them unpleasantly high in contrast). The lighting is a classic natural light studio (I wish I had access to one here in the Boston area). Penn depicts the subjects in a dignified, respectful way and you feel a close relationship between the photographer and subject; closer than Avedon's American West images or August Sander's even more emotionless characters (*), for instance. Penn also selected an ideal camera angle, which produces subtly flattering images. The subjects, though rarely smiling, have a warm expression. They obviously feel welcome to the photo session.

Several years ago I saw a photograph of a young couple (appeared to be cooks because the man holds a cooking pan in his hand) in a setting very similar to Penn's. It was on the wall in our favorite pasta shop. The shop owner could not tell me where the photo came from nor who took it. The image stayed with me for years and now I think it may be one of Irvin Penn's small trade people series (though not in the book).

You must own this collection if you like long lasting photographs of people.

(*) from a very different period and culture.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fine collection February 22, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Though I already own several other volumes by Irving Penn and have seen all these images, it is very gratifying to have them all in one place with such rich full page reproductions. Irving Penn was a marvelous and highly influential photographer who did some of the finest fashio, still life, and portrait photos extant. But his "small trades" series is perhaps the most memorable photography he ever did.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book! December 25, 2012
By sycorax
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
These photographs are a rare view of working men and women from a variety of professions. An invaluable and beautiful book.
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