I have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of Miles Davis’ work during the 80′s. For a long time I’ve been slightly turned off by the overtly synthetic feel of a lot of jazz created at the time, in comparison to my love for the organic nature of the genre in the 70′s and early 60′s. But I also realize that some of the most iconic images of Miles came from this period, including the photograph from his sixth album to come after his hiatus in the late 70′s, Tutu. The photos, taken by Irving Penn, are fitting for a musician often referred to as “The Prince of Darkness”. These two portraits (below) have become defining images of the man.
Photographer Irving Penn died just two months ago at the age of 92. He left behind a strongly consistent body of work. It varies widely in subject matter but almost always keeps with his signature style of black and white photographs displaying simple, strong composition and contrast.
Penn attended school to become a painter. After a period of doing design work for Harper’s Bazaar, he became a fashion photographer for Vogue Magazine, with his photographs appearing on 150 covers for the next 50 years. During his time he also created a striking portrait series of people from diverse cultural backgrounds. Later in life he focused on still-lifes of found objects, including cigarette butts and skulls. This work appears to deliberately contrast with the perfection of the models in his fashion photography, attempting to find beauty in objects and people that otherwise wouldn’t be considered so.
Penn’s work has been displayed in a number of galleries, including the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. You can read a more in-depth article about Penn on The New York Times’ site, and memories from those he worked with collected at Interview Magazine.