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The concept of contrast — in this case between the fashions and the setting — was pure Penn.
In his introduction to “Moments Preserved,” a 1960 book of Penn’s photographs and essays, Liberman wrote: “Penn, in his survey of life, has never lost sight of the coexistence of extremes. He has made systematic documentations of working men and their clothes. These, along with his fashion photographs and his portraits, are all part of the same grand plan of recording life, or the human comedy, at this one brief period of time.”
“I have always stood in awe of the camera,” Penn told the Independent of London in 2001. “I recognize it for the instrument it is, part Stradivarius, part scalpel.”
The apparel industry formally recognized Penn in 2004, when he was given the Eleanor Lambert Award by the Council of Fashion Designers of America as “one of the preeminent photographers of his time.”
In 1958, when he was named one of “The World’s 10 Greatest Photographers” by Popular Photography magazine, his statement of purpose dispensed with frills and was as pure and simple as some of his best images.
“I am a professional photographer,” he said, “because it is the best way I know to earn the money I require to take care of my wife and children.”