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.
13 years with Irving Penn: creation without parallel
── You were the closest witness to the collaboration between Penn and Miyake-san, and the director of the exhibition. What sort of person did Penn seem like, to you ?
Midori Kitamura (from hereon Kitamura):
Throughout this six month exhibition, many have shared their stories of Penn san with us through talks and on the website. First and foremost, I extend my deepest gratitude to all of those who have contributed to this exhibition. I felt once again the greatness of Penn san, hearing these leading figures who also saw him as their first inspiration.
I worked with Penn san for 13 years. I had never met a person with such a crystal-clear vision of all aspect of life including his own thoughts. But, he never made anyone nervous. During breaks, he would come into our circle smiling and make small-talk before walking away gracefully. He was a charming man but also one who always kept this fine distance.
── At the photo sessions, you played an important role connecting Penn with Issey-san.
Kitamura: Penn san would say to me, "Midori, there is no substitute for you. You make my work easier. Because, you don't say no to this and no to that." (Laughing.) When I went to NY, I had to leave Miyake and that world behind me, and separate myself from the collection. It was my mission to focus upon contributing to the new world that Penn san would create.
Miyake wanted for Penn san to discover a new world in his clothes. He felt that Penn san's photos created a new vision and understanding of his work. Often times, clothes were worn differently, like a skirt worn on the head; sometimes I layered clothes one over another. Well, I once made a model wear a hat upside-down. It was necessary for me to make any effort possible.
During every photo sessions, I would need to make split-second decisions. Ideas that came up during the sessions had to be preserved on film while they were still fresh; which meant there was no time to say, "Wait, I'm going to call the office and check." One of the skills learned from my work with Penn san was never making changes once I had given my word and a decision was made.
── I've heard that Penn san very much looked forward to Miyake-san's photo sittings.
Kitamura: Penn san often told me, "I can't sleep from excitement whenever there is a photo session for ISSEY MIYAKE's clothes." I imagine that Miyake's clothes were like space creatures for Penn san. I think this is what invigorated Penn san's desire to "create and take photos." He must have thought, "What kind of creature will come next?"
── I've heard there is a drawing of you by Penn san.
Kitamura: (Laughing.) On my birthday, someone mentioned, "Today is Midori's birthday", and when I was going about my work, Penn san drew up a sketch on his usual drawing paper and gave it to me. I regret that I cannot show you as it is very personal, but it is my treasure.
── Please tell us what is coming up next for you?
Kitamura: An international publisher will be releasing a complete book of PLEATS PLEASE ISSEY MIYAKE (576 pages) to mark its 20th anniversary. I hope you will have time to take a look.
(interviewer: Keiko Kamijo)
Photo: Lothar Schmid
President of MIYAKE DESIGN STUDIO.
Born in Tokyo. Graduated from Ferris University. Since 1976, works under Issey Miyake on collections, exhibitions and publications as attaché de press of ISSEY MIYAKE. Manages developments including creative direction of products such as perfumes and watches. Exhibition Director of "Bulls Eye Special 2008" at 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT together with Kazumi Oguro and Katsuhiko Hibino.
President of 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT Inc. since 2009.
List view of "Irving Penn and Me"