Irving Penn: On Assignment

Matthew Donaldson Curates a Personal Selection from the Influential Late Photographer’s New York Retrospective

Photographer and filmmaker Matthew Donaldson selects a series of Irving Penn’s most dynamic shots. Donaldson is known for a bold approach to image making, as was Penn, whose 60-year editorial and commercial career saw his work regularly grace the pages of Vogue, Look and The New Yorker before he died in 2009. Below, Donaldson recalls the time that he unexpectedly met his hero in 1985.

I was a young man in Paris working for a photographer. My boss called one lunchtime and told me to meet him at the Hôtel de Crillon on our way to a location. I pulled on a jacket, jumped onto my motorcycle and headed for the Place de la Concorde. As I walked into the marble entrance I spotted my boss walking into the salon. We headed towards a table at the back of the room where a small, well-dressed man sat with a china teapot, a cup and saucer. He rose and greeted my photographer, turned to me and introduced himself as Irving Penn.

Thanks for telling me boss.

Thirty minutes later I was more in love with a man than I thought possible. His charm, poise and honesty surpassed my dreams of meeting him. He said little but told me everything. He was a humble man who existed in a world where humility was an unusual trait.  

Penn was that rare bird, a photographer who truly inhabited both the art and commerce of photography with equal measure. From his extraordinary exhibition Street Materials at MoMA in 1977, Penn was officially an artist; his pictures being shown within the bracket of 20th century art. This was a landmark for an ostensibly commercial photographer.  He was the dude—long live the dude.

Irving Penn On Assignment runs through October 26 across both Pace Gallery and Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York City.

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    Zebra Katz: Lst Ctrl

    Matthew Donaldson Closes in on the Provocative Hip-Hop Performance Artist 

    Inspired by “Grace Jones, Nina Simone and [Elizabeth Berkley’s character in the sleazy b-movie Showgirls], Nomi Malone,” Zebra Katz is the alter ego of 26-year-old Brooklyn rap provocateur Ojay Morgan. Taken from his self-released EP Drklng, the subversive lyrical bravado and pounding bass quakes of today’s Mike Dextro-produced track are accentuated by the rapper’s hypnotic gaze in the new video by British director and photographer Matthew Donaldson. Morgan sees live performance as his stock in trade. “To live in the moment, react, create and breathe,” he says of his aim when up on stage. “I’m driven by audience participation, so the higher, louder and more intoxicated the audience is, the greater the show's energy.” Drklng also features the unbounded energy of fellow New Yorker Busta Rhymes on “Ima Lead,” a re-appropriation of Morgan’s explicit breakthrough single “Ima Read.” “My audience is evolving more than my performance at the moment,” says Zebra Katz of his growing cult-like popularity. “With each new show in a new city I’ve never been to before, I see and hear more Katz presenting themselves in the front row like offerings.”

    Check out more exclusive Zebra Katz stills by Matthew Donaldson at The Telegraph.

    Look 1: White blazer, Tommy Hilfiger; white T-shirt and trousers, Lacoste. Look 2: Mohair coat, Neil Barrett; white T-shirt and trousers, Lacoste. Look 3: Fluffy jacket, Neil Barrett; white T-shirt and trousers, Lacoste. Leather mask, vintage. 
    Thanks to Alex Shah at Premier Model Management

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    Sergei Polunin: The Fragile Balance

    Jem Goulding’s New Film Captures the Inner World of the Restless Prince of Ballet

    Leaving Ukraine at the tender age of 13 to join London's Royal Ballet School, Sergei Polunin became the youngest-ever principal dancer in the history of the Royal Ballet at 19, earning him comparisons to 20th century greats Mikhail Baryshnikov and Rudolf Nureyev. In this touching portrait by artist and director Jem Goulding, Polunin reflects on early triumphs, autonomy and “playing with journalists” while performing at Moscow’s Stanislavsky Theatre. Known for his visceral, adrenaline-charged technique and emotive style, the dance prodigy is making a return to ballet since his controversial departure from London's Royal supertroupe last year. Goulding assembled footage from a week spent with Polunin on and off the stage in Moscow, where he is currently under the mentorship of Igor Zelensky, the artistic director of the Stanislavsky Ballet. “Sergei was in the middle of an intense rehearsal schedule for his tour of Coppelia, and I sat in on rehearsals every day,” explains the filmmaker, “though I always planned to catch him outside of ballet; sometimes we would be at a restaurant, other times he was fresh out of the shower after training, and tired.” Shooting on Super 8 and her 16mm Bolex camera, Goulding depicts a seldom seen side of Polunin: From candid moments in Red Square to a spontaneous tour of the Bolshoi. “Sergei is an adrenaline junkie, a thrill-seeker and fearless in many ways,” she adds, “even if some of it comes from youthful naivety, it's still compelling.”

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