There are just three weeks left to soak up all the amazing photography in Decisive Moments: Photographs from the Collection of Cherye R. and James F. Pierce. It has been an honor and a thrill to have these work on view at the museum. We hope newbies have learned a little about photography, and that photography experts have enjoyed leisurely experiencing these works both incredibly famous and little known.
One of the incredibly famous works in the show is Irving Penn’s Cuzco Children, pictured above. Here is what James Jensen, our curator of contemporary art, has written about it:
Irving Penn, with his association at Condé Nast’s Vogue, and Richard Avedon at Hearst’s Harper’s Bazaar, elevated fashion photography to an art form. However, Penn and Avedon sought recognition as “serious” artists. Perhaps Penn’s most famous, and endearing “art” images is this portrait of an Indian boy and girl taken in an antiquated photographer’s studio borrowed during a working trip to Peru. Penn treated his diminutive subjects—barefoot, hatted, and hands clasped atop a Victorian tripod table—with as much respect and dignity as any of the celebrities, cultural icons, and fashion models he photographed in New York. Penn had begun to pose subjects against simple gray or white backdrops, an innovative device he used in this portrait. The austere, minimalist studio does not distract, so the viewer’s attention is directed primarily at the subjects, who solemnly pose with elegant poise and dignity that belies their young ages and impoverished situation. It is as if Penn is invoking the painter Velàzquez’s portraits of royal Spanish Infantas.
Irving Penn (American, 1917–2009)
Cuzco Children, 1948
The Cherye R. and James F. Pierce Collection of Photography
Visit the museum to see this photograph—there’s nothing like the “real thing.”