With the death of iconic photographer Irving Penn earlier today I began to wonder exactly how much are movies indebted to fashion and the other way around.
This was also sparked by my viewing last night of R.J. Cutler's "The September Issue" (my review here) which deals with Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour (not played by Meryl Streep this time).
Penn was a key photographer of the magazine in the 1950's, along with legendary figures like Helmut Newton and Richard Avedon. Together they showed that there is something that fashion can bring to art. Penn, in fact was one of the first portraitists that used the blank background to shoot his subjects, technique which is as relevant today as it was groundbreaking fifty years ago (can you imagine Beyoncé's "All the Single Ladies" video with a faux-forest background?).
But Penn is also important because he was one of the first photographers to try and give depth to celebrities. Classic Hollywood shoots exploited the glamor and unattainability of people like Garbo and Clift. Penn on the other side let them open up to his camera and seem alive (just see his portrait of Rudolf Nureyev above).
This reminded me of something "The September Issue" stresses about Wintour. The fact that "she trained a generation of celebrities to want to be supermodels". This sounds shallow if glanced upon lightly, but really when there was people like Penn doing that kind of art in photography (and being featured in a fashion magazine!) can you really blame Charlize, Gwyneth and Sarah Jessica for wanting to be on the covers?
While you think about that I leave you with yet another proof of the delicious connection between fashion, photography and cinema (just ignore the Italian dubbing and move straight to the musical part).