Flicking through his portfolio on photography-now.net, I was amazed by his work not only in the realm of high fashion, but in capturing people from other cultures, countries. Firstly, they conjoured up, in my mind, the work of the anthropological photographers from the colonial eras, who documented 'disappearing cultures' and whose work always strikes me as a shocking exponent of colonialism and the subjugation of native peoples.
However, when examined closed, I found that, when seen in juxtaposition with his work in the world of high fashion, it can be read that his work is the recognition of other ideas of fashion and beauty. Who is to say that the body art of african tribes is not comperable to the strong lines of a chanel suit. When examined with a post-modern eye, the world of other 'beauties' can be seen parallel to the world of 'other histories' which were forgotten and not written in the generally accepted canon, or other forms of 'high art' which were seen not as art, but as artefacts.
Some Images from Irving Penn (a new favourite):
[source for all images: http://photography-now.net/irving_penn/]