Irving Penn betrachtet das Werk von Issey Miyake. Photographien 1975–1998

Irving Penn betrachtet das Werk von Issey Miyake. Photographien 1975–1998

(Irving Penn regards the work of Issey Miyake. Photographs 1975–1998)


A cooperation between a photographer and a fashion designer does not sound surprising, unconventional or exotic to us nowadays, as fashion needs photography to be presented in magazines or catalogs, no matter whether in digital or analogue media. However the book that I am introducing today is a result of an intense exchange between two masters and at the same time of two cultures: the american photographer Irving Penn (1917–2009) and the almost twenty years younger Japanese fashion designer Miyake Issey (born 1938).

An essay by Mark Holborn at the beginning of the catalogue describes the relation between Penn and Miyake and beyond this, Penns interest in the “imaginary Japan”. From the essay I learned that Penn took photos of Miyakes design for the first time in the early 1980s. While Miyake who studied graphic design (!) in Tokyo, already recognised and admired Penns work during the 1960s through the fashion magazine Vogue, Penn started to consciously reflect on Miyakes work in 1986. Through the eyes of each other, they started to see their own works.
Just to mention one aspect of the cooperation: to not interfere Penns view, Miyake left the location during the shooting sessions. Only Kitamura Midori who knows every detail of Miyakes creations, assisted and supported Penn during the work.

The catalogue has a rather wide portrait format of 277 x 322 x 20 mm (w x h x d) and is printed in a excellent quality on a coated paper in a gentle white. The presentation of text is limited to the essay by Mark Holborn in the length of 13 pages and the short appendix. The only information we get on each photo is the year of it’s creation. The details of the texture and materiality of Miyakes design, captured by Penn, become almost tangible on the surface of each page.

A glance into the book shows a clear focus on the presentation of the photography through a well-considered layout. The layout plays with the white space and the dynamic that is created by the lively positioning of the photos which are often going over the edge. Flipping through the pages, I got the impression of a dancing performance, a movie sequence, a pantomime or even being reminded of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”.

Describing the layout this way leads me to the designer of this book: It was Tanaka Ikko (1930–2002), the Japanese grand master of graphic design. In this sense this photo book is an harmonious ensemble of three crafts: fashion, photography and graphic design. To add one more, the fourth craft would be printing, conducted by Dai Nippon Printing.










Irving Penn betrachtet das Werk von Issey Miyake. Photographien 1975–1998
(Irving Penn regards the work of Issey Miyake)
London: Schirmer/Mosel, 1999
Printed in Japan by Dai Nippon Printing, Tokyo