The photographer Irving Penn put Marcel Duchamp in a corner, exposed Colette’s forehead and swaddled Rudolf Nureyev’s lithe body in layers of winter clothing. His subjects, who included many of the greatest creative talents of the 20th century, emerged from their portrait sessions with their carefully shaped personas profoundly shaken.
The windows to the soul are firmly shut in some of the later portraits.
Rock Groups,” taken in San Francisco during the 1967 Summer of Love, is an exception. On the left side of this group portrait is Big Brother and the Holding Company; on the right is the Grateful Dead. Everyone, even Janis Joplin, looks strangely neutral.
In “Passage” Mr. Penn wrote: “The hippies and the rock groups surprised me with their concentration. Their eyes remained riveted on the camera lens; I found them patient and gentle.” Where he expected confrontation, he found none.Mr. Penn has been compared to Nadar, the 19th-century French photographer who made studio portraits of the Impressionists, although the comparison is superficial. He shares Nadar’s scope but not his sympathetic relationship to the sitter. Working primarily for Vogue, where he collaborated with the art director Alexander Liberman and competed with the photographer Richard Avedon, Mr. Penn developed a signature, confrontational style.