Early last year, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles acquired an important collection of Irving Penn portraits taken in Paris, London, and New York in the early 1950s. Known as “The Small Trades,” the series of photos captures tradespeople ranging from firefighters and deep sea divers to a Parisian busboy and a pair of ballroom dancing instructors whose steely determination suggests they would have little patience for Dancing with the Stars. Now the Getty has put the portraits—all 252 of them—to work in a sizable exhibition that runs through January 10 at the Getty Center. The show explores Penn’s process, tracing his technique from the original silver prints made in 1950 and 1951 to the more tonally lush products of platinum/palladium printing, and highlights his way with composition as well as a distinct fascination with the crisply uniformed staff of Parisian restaurants. So where do milkmen and road sweepers meet models and trend-setting Vogue fashion spreads? Find out on Tuesday evening at the Getty Center, when Colin Westerbeck, director of the California Museum of Photography, will speak about Penn’s studies of working-class people in the context of his full career.
Previously on UnBeige::