February 2012 (8)

"Irving Penn and Me" vol. 20 Michael Thompson

In celebrating the "Irving Penn and Issey Miyake: Visual Dialogue" exhibition starting September 16, leading creators from all walks of art speak to us of their fascination with Irving Penn photos.

Penn taught me of the pursuit for simplicity

──You were an assistant at Mr. Penn's studio but what drove you to go there in the first place?

Michael Thompson (from hereon Thompson):
I discovered Mr. Penn's photos while as a student at photography school and I was stunned by the overwhelming simplicity and power of his photos. Mr. Penn's photos contain many messages within its simple image. I was inspired by these photos that carried such an enormous impact.
In 1987, I came out from California to New York to visit Mr. Penn's studio. At a normal studio, you'd think that the assistant would come out at the first interview right? But when I knocked on his door, Mr. Penn answered the door himself. When I found out I'd been hired, I thought I was dreaming. After all, Mr. Penn was a famous top photographer.

──Did Penn have any influence on you?

Thompson: Of course, lots (laugh). Mr. Penn, in his pursuit for simplicity, would start over again and again until he was satisfied. No matter how much work he had on his hands, he developed his prints himself. From that, I learned never to give up until satisfied. He was also a man who placed importance on balancing work with private time. He started at the same time and finished at the same time every day. He was also a very devoted family man.

──What do you focus on when taking photos?

Thompson: How much I can convey through a single photo. A single photo will take a person's heart to a different place. Even among them, a good photo will slip its way inside a person's heart and stir up emotions. The important thing then is that the photo be simple. I believe that a simple photo will communicate the deeper message with greater straightness.

──Are there any memorable words spoken to you by Mr. Penn?

Thompson: I remember a conversation with him on the last day at his studio before setting off on my own. He said, "Michael, do you know the way to keep photo expenses low? Creating the work, paying money to your assistants, renting equipment; all of this takes money. You will have to take on a lot of unwanted work in order to pay those costs. But, if you try not to spend too much regularly, you can choose only the jobs you like and lead a happy and creative life." This is very important and I distinctly remember these words because they very well expressed Mr. Penn who led a life without all the glamour.

──Please tell us about your recent work.

Thompson: In 1993, I took pictures of models painted in blue paint and I'd wanted to challenge this again, only this time using a powerful red. Later on, I had just one day to take photos and so a photo session took place using red paint. The result is the "RED NUDE" photo collection. Don't you think it's interesting how the body is portrayed like an abstract object? At the same time, I published the "PORTRAITS" collection. This was created through photos I had taken and saved over the past 20 years. Here, readers will find celebrities from around the world but they will see an unexpected side of them as well. Please take a look.

(interviewer: Keiko Kamijo)

Michael Thompson

Born and raised in Washington State, Michael Thompson honed his vision behind the lens at his father's portrait studio.
After earning a degree from the Brooks Institute of Photography, he moved to New York City to assist legendary fashion photographer Irving Penn.
Since then, Thompson has shot models and celebrities for prestigious fashion magazines as well as fregrance and beauty advertising campaigns.
Thompson lives in Oregon with his wife Kelly and their two children, Ruby and Sean.


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"Irving Penn and Me" vol. 19 Gan Hosoya

In celebrating the "Irving Penn and Issey Miyake: Visual Dialogue" exhibition starting September 16, leading creators from all walks of art speak to us of their fascination with Irving Penn photos.

My days of Irving Penn

──What was your first impression of Penn photos?

Gan Hosoya (from hereon, Hosoya):
I joined Light Publicity as a designer in 1953 at the age of 18. Since back then, the company purchased American magazines like "Life", "LOOK", "Esquire", "McCall's Magazine", and "seventeen" and I remember being in complete awe of the quality of their editorial design. The photos, illustrations, and typography were all so beautiful and illuminating. I discovered Irving Penn through fashion magazine "VOGUE" and Richard Avedon through "Harper's BAZAAR."
My impression was that Avedon was dynamic and Penn uniquely static.

I distinctly remember the time I saw Penn's portraits for the first time. It may sound exaggerative but it was so magnificent to the point that I remember thinking, "This must be what it means to be happy."
It could be my unique way of perception but when I see something nice, I feel a gush of joy. After that experience, I couldn't stop thinking about Penn's photos and it was literally "Irving Penn day in and day out."

──What was it about Penn's photos that moved you so much?

Hosoya: The reason why a person like me, who is not a photographer, was so impressed by Penn's photos is that other than the beautiful lighting, he focuses heavily on form. Penn's portraits are taken as if photographing objects. Since form is design, in my eyes, Penn's photos have a very strong element of design. Not to mention elegance and dignity too.

As a young man, Penn aspired to be a painter but I think he was greatly influenced after studying design and photography under Alexey Brodovitch, followed by his work with "VOGUE" where he met artist and art director Alexander Lieberman. But the discipline of a painter makes Penn's landscape photos akin to impressionist paintings like Monet and Seurat. His still life photos remind me of Cezanne and Giorgio Morandi.

──Penn produced many types of work. What is your favorite?

Hosoya: His fashion photos and portraits are famous but my pick is his still life and journalistic photos that he took on his travels around the world. I love the "MOMENTS PRESERVED" series and I believe Penn wanted to show photography is about preserving moments in memory. There was a photographer who once said, "Shooting photos means shooting time." I couldn't have put it better myself.

Looking at Penn's photos gives you a very clear idea that photography is visual communication. His photos brilliantly express the "emotion" and "intelligence" standing behind the camera.

──Please tell us about your recent work.

Hosoya: A collection of miscellaneous works written for books and magazines over the years have been compiled into a book titled "hosoya no Hitorigoto" by Hakusuisha to be released in spring.

(interviewer: Keiko Kamijo)

Gan Hosoya

Gan Hosoya

Art Director
Born in Kanagawa Prefecture in 1935. Graduated from Technical Design Department of the Kanagawa Technical High School in 1953, and entered the company, Light Publicity Ltd. Now the chairman of the company. The chairman of ADC/Tokyo Art Directors Club and the member of JAGDA/Japan Graphic Designers Association Inc. AWARDS=JAAC Award Special Selection (1955, 1956). Tokyo ADC Award Gold Prize and Silver Prize (1959). Mainichi Industrial Design Award (1963). JAAC Members' Award for a collaborative work (1967). Tokyo ADC Members' Grand Prize (1988). JAAC Yamana Prize (1990). Purple Ribbon Medal (2001). EXHIBITION="Persona" graphic design exhibition (1965). "Gan Hosoya Art Direction" exhibition (GA Gallery, 1988). "time-tunnel, hosoya gan ― exhibition of an art director & graphic designer" (Creation Gallery G8, Guardian Garden, 2004). "Creators" (Setagaya Art Museum, 2006). "Last Show ― Gan Hosoya Art Direction" (ginza graphic gallery, 2009). PUBLICATIONS=The Wings of Image: Gan Hosoya Art Direction (1974). The Wings of Image II: GAN HOSOYA ART DIRECTION (1988). Gan Hosoya Design Road Sixty Nine (2004).

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"Irving Penn and Me" vol.18 Eiichiro Sakata

In celebrating the "Irving Penn and Issey Miyake: Visual Dialogue" exhibition starting September 16, leading creators from all walks of art speak to us of their fascination with Irving Penn photos.

Exchange with Penn and Avedon in NY of the 1960's

──You have actually met Penn. Can you share with us some episodes from those times?

Eiichiro Sakata (from hereon, Sakata):
I met him a total of three times; in the 1960's, and in the late 70's after I had returned from NY. The first time was during the Irving Penn exhibition in Japan. He was a very quiet man. When he was asked to give a speech at the show reception, he stood up to the microphone and while we all waited to hear his words, he just said, "Thank you." That's it...I was dumbstruck! I worked under Avedon for four years and I must say that he is exact opposite of Avedon in every way. However, Avedon and Penn were good friends who talked often on the phone. Although of course, I have no idea what they talked about (laugh.)

──What a nice episode. What other exchange did you have with him?

Sakata: There is the story of the brush. At the time, there was a Japanese-American photographer named Kaz Inoue who worked as Penn's assistant and his wife, a hair stylist, helped me often during my time in NY. After I had returned to Japan, Mrs. Inoue came to Japan. During her trip, she told me that Penn was looking for a brush to apply materials for making printing paper. So, I took her to Asakusa and arranged for a couple brushes. A few years later, Penn came to Japan so I went to visit him, assuming that he had forgotten about it by that time. However, when I told him that I was close with Kaz Inoue, he replied, "Oh, you must be the one that found my brush. Thank you!" I remember feeling grateful that he had remembered such a trivial event.

──You personally know these two very different masters but what kind of influence have Penn and Avedon had on your photography? Whose photo sessions do you think your own sessions are similar to?

Sakata: I'd say Avedon. I can't stand silence (laugh.) In the past, I was scared of stepping into people's hearts when taking photos. But, it's not me to take photos in silence like Penn. Which reminds me; Avedon once told me, "You must have taken the wrong turn because you are like Jerry Lewis." (Laugh.) Now that I think about it, I think he was spot on.

──Please tell us about your recent work. I'm sure that many have seen your AERA covers. You've taken portraits of some of the most famous people on earth but do you still get nervous regardless of your experience?

Sakata: There is quite some time until my next exhibition so for now, everyone can see my work on the AERA covers. It's already been 23 years since I started but I was constantly nervous for the first six. I mean, it was always pictures of state-class figures like Arafat. But then again, I'm Jerry Lewis (laughing.) I pride myself in making my photo shoots entertaining and that's why I'm always asked to take pictures before the interview.

(interviewer: Keiko Kamijo)

Eiichiro Sakata

Eiichiro Sakata

Born in Tokyo. Joined Light Publicity after graduating from the photography department of the Nihon University College of Art. 1966, moved to the United States and studied under Richard Avedon. Turned freelance in 1970 and rose to prominence through solo exhibition, "Just Wait." Main photo collections include, "Chumon no Ooi Shashinkan (A Photo Studio with Many Orders)", "amaranth", and "PIERCING THE SKY." He has continued to photograph covers for "AERA" magazine for 23 years since its first publication. 1993, hosted a photo exhibition and workshop at Les Rencontres d'Arles International Photography Festival. Winner of the Arles Honorary Citizen Award. 2005, "PIERCING THE SKY" won the 24th Domon Ken Award and the Photographic Society of Japan, Lifetime Achievement Award.

AERA Cover
"AERA" Cover('11.8.22)

List view of "Irving Penn and Me"

"Irving Penn and Me" vol.17 Tetsuo Fukaya

In celebrating the "Irving Penn and Issey Miyake: Visual Dialogue" exhibition starting September 16, leading creators from all walks of art speak to us of their fascination with Irving Penn photos.

A man who breathed the air of New York and reassembled it through his unique golden rule

──You lived in New York during Penn's times.

Tetsuo Fukaya (from hereon, Fukaya):
Mr. Penn was like a god even back then. New York at the time was like a medium itself and a city that influenced the entire world, especially in creative fields- same as it ever was even today. The city was very flashy and bursting with vanity in a good sense. In that city, Mr. Penn was in a different realm; I remember him as being really simple and rustic.

──You've joined one of Penn's photo sessions. What was the studio like?

Fukaya: In those days, studios of most New York fashion photographers were a gathering place for fashion editors where gorgeous lunch catering was provided. Except Penn's studio that was so simple. It was far from big, it had only the bare minimum, and photo sessions were carried out under splendid natural light. I believe that Mr. Penn did not need all that excess because he had a clear idea of what was important when pressing the shutter. When I sat in on the session, it was for Issey-san's clothing and I remember him setting up the lighting carefully. Those were pretty much straight forward and simple.

──How did your interaction with Penn influence you?

Fukaya: He taught me how to address my subjects from a multidimensional perspective and importance of looking deep into every side. I acquired the eyes which catch personal history oozing out of a person, ethnographic perspective, and learned how to look at objects like flowers and cigarette ends with inspiration that comes from modern art flowing through the city, and that it is possible and such splendid it is to reassemble my subjects through all-embracing beauty. Regardless of changing times, Penn, with his arms wide open, accepted the tides of this city of New York and reassembled it through his unique language, his flawless golden ratio. He wasn't just a genius who was inspired by the city and the times but he himself was a true New Yorker.

──Please tell us about your recent projects.

Fukaya: Many of projects I am currently involved are confidential, but I am engaged in development and restructuring of brands. In Japan, there are dozens of handiworks, technologies, and creative works that are difficult to be recognized and appreciated worldwide because of its unique Japanese context. My goal is to produce brands and products that heighten its value and let their existence be known throughout the world. I want to continue to devote to promotion of the appeals of Japan's products and brands so that people will understand and identify those as values of today.

(interviewer: Keiko Kamijo)

Tetsuo Fukaya

Tetsuo Fukaya

1956: Born in Tokyo
1979: Graduated from Keio University Department of Law, Faculty of Law
1979: Resides in New York, working between Tokyo and NY
Pursued a musical career mainly in NY as a musician contracted with Warner Brothers.
At the same time, acted as Associate Editor of BRUTUS in Tokyo and a freelance photographer.
1990: Set up KAITAISHINSHA Inc. in Tokyo.
Main areas of business are in brand development, media production, and market analysis.

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[Movie] Talk "Irving Penn and Issey Miyake"


Exhibition "Irving Penn and Issey Miyake: Visual Dialogue" is covered by German magazine "HEAR THE WORLD."


"Irving Penn and Me" vol. 16 Jasper Morrison

In celebrating the "Irving Penn and Issey Miyake: Visual Dialogue" exhibition starting September 16, leading creators from all walks of art speak to us of their fascination with Irving Penn photos.

The power of Penn's photography that shines bright in the age of processed photos

──Please tell us about your first encounter with Irving Penn's photography.

Jasper Morrison (from hereon, Morrison):
It was sometime soon after the publication of "Worlds in a Small Room" around 1976 that someone in my family bought a copy and I first came across a Penn photo. I was very impressed by that book and as I had just taken up photography myself it made a powerful impression on me. There was nothing fake about any of Penn's photo's, just the beautiful truth.

──What do you think, or how do you feel about his photos?

Morrison: I think they have maintained their power completely, perhaps they have even more impact these days with so much 'photoshopping' going on. I particularly like his still lives, in fact I just bought one of some steel blocks.

──Do you have any specific episode of Penn or his photography to share with us?

Morrison: I feel very close to Irving Penn, as if I knew him but no, I never met him and apart from the episodes there is only one other notable one. That was attending the opening of the exhibition "Irving Penn & Issey Miyake: Visual Dialogue" at 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT, where I felt again the same powerful sense of authenticity, humour, visual genius and originality that characterises Penn's work.

──Please tell us about your recent work (exhibition, publication, new project etc.)

Morrison: I'm just completing a small book called 'Jasper Morrison au Musée', which is about an exhibition I made in Bordeaux in the museum of decorative arts, where I integrated some of my designs into the collection of 17th and 18th Century antiques. It was a great experience trying to combine the pieces well with their 'ancestors'. As usual I am working on 4 or 5 chair projects and a variety of other products like shoes, tv, cast-iron pan........

Jasper Morrison
Photo: Suki Dhanda

Jasper Morrison

Born in London in 1959, and graduated in Design at Kingston Polytechnic Design School, London (1979-82 BA (Des.)) and the Royal College of Art for Postgraduate studies (1982-85 MA (Des.) RCA). In 1984 he studied on a scholarship at the Hochschule der Künste Berlin. In 1986 he set up his Office for Design in London.
Today Jasper Morrison Ltd. consists of three design offices, a main office in London and two branch office: one in Paris and one in Tokyo. Services offered by Jasper Morrison Ltd. are wide ranging, from tableware and kitchen products to furniture and lighting, sanitaryware, electronics and appliance design and more recently watches & clocks. Occasionally, Jasper Morrison Ltd. even tackle urban design projects. In 2005, founding of Super Normal with Naoto Fukasawa. In June 2006, first Super Normal exhibition in Tokyo. In 2009 opening of the Jasper Morrison Limited Shop in London. In 2011 opening of the webshop of the Jasper Morrison Limited Shop.

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"Irving Penn and Me" vol. 15 Tokujin Yoshioka

In celebrating the "Irving Penn and Issey Miyake: Visual Dialogue" exhibition starting September 16, leading creators from all walks of art speak to us of their fascination with Irving Penn photos.

Unwavering "strength"
The extraordinary power of Penn's photos

──You were at Miyake Design Studio exactly when the collections introduced in this exhibition were created. Are there any episodes you can share with us regarding those times?

Tokujin Yoshioka (from hereon,Yoshioka):
I came to know Mr. Penn's creations through Issey-san. Issey-san showed me Mr. Penn's photos and Ms. Midori Kitamura told me stories of the photo session. Penn photographed hats which I was in charge of design for the Paris collection. I purchased those cuts and have treasured them ever since. Also, Issey-san once told me, "Go and see New York" and so, I visited Penn's studio during the visit. Unfortunately, I could not see a photo session but I sat in a meeting to review the clothes. I have an impression of him as being a gentle and silent man.

──What is your impression of Penn's photos?

Yoshioka: There is a famous episode, though about someone else's hat. Once, there was a hat designed using bread but the bread had molded during shipping. However, when that hat arrived at Mr. Penn's doors, he marveled that the "mold was beautiful" and took the photo of the hat with the mold still on it. I think that episode is very symbolic of Mr. Penn.

Mr. Penn's photos are not just beautiful but they seek out the beauty in "raw moments" of destruction at times and other times decay. This form of expression also contains overwhelming power. I've never met a photographer that takes such powerful photos.

The number of people who have seen his photo sessions are only a few but I've heard from a model that he photographed in very dark rooms. The shutter speed was slow so the model had to keep still and I've heard that was quite some work.

──What have you learned from Penn's photos?

Yoshioka: Strength. I believe this is the most difficult task of all and I am impressed by works that exhibit strength just by being there and making the entire creative process seem effortless. This is what I aspire to achieve.

──Please tell us about your recent work.

Yoshioka: The Orsay Museum was renovated in 2011 and "Water block" are installed in the impressionist gallery for this renovation project. The pieces sit in a gallery that houses impressionist masters such as Manet, Renoir, Degas, and Cezanne and you can actually sit on them when looking at the paintings. Please stop by if you have a chance to visit Paris.

(interviewer: Keiko Kamijo)

Tokujin Yoshioka

Tokujin Yoshioka

Born in 1967. Established Tokujin Yoshioka Inc. in 2000. His works, which transcend the boundaries of product design, architecture, and exhibition installation, are highly evaluated also as art.
Many of his works are displayed as a part of permanent collections in the world's well-known museums, including Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, and Musee d'Orsay, Paris.
He received prizes such as "Design Miami, Designer of the Year, 2007", and "A&W Architektur & Wohnen/Designer of the Year 2011".
Appeared in television broadcaster TBS's documentary program, "Jonetsu Tairiku" and selected by the Japanese edition of Newsweek as one of the "100 most respected Japanese by the world."

「Water block」
"Water block" (Impressionist gallery, The Orsay Museum)

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