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Vogue fashion photograph, Café in Lima, Peru (Jean Patchett)

printed 1949


Irving Penn

United States of America

1917 - Oct 2009


The American Irving Penn brought a new vision to postwar fashion photography, in which simplicity and informality predominated over glamour and gloss. Enjoying a varied career as a fashion photographer, portraitist and photojournalist, Penn started as an assistant at ‘Harper’s Bazaar’ with the legendary art director Alexey Brodovitch in 1937. In 1943 he became the assistant to Alexander Liberman, ‘Vogue’s’ art director, and photographed his first cover – a still-life – for the magazine. His first fashion photograph followed in 1944.

The photograph of model Jean Patchett waiting pensively in a Lima café appeared in the 15 February 1949 issue of ‘Vogue’. It was part of a photo-spread called ‘Flying down to Lima’ which incorporated fashion into a romantic travelogue as lived by the model. This fashion ‘story’ was to be the only one Penn would shoot entirely on location. After this he preferred to work with a simple studio backdrop, as in his landmark photographs of the Paris collections in 1950.

As part of the postwar trend towards showing gritty, real life rather than the lavish fantasies of the pre-war studio, Patchett was photographed with street urchins, in shoeshine stands, massaging her tired feet or killing time in a café. The clothes she modelled were made from ‘Vogue’ patterns, rather than haute couture, and so were attainable for the average woman. Penn photographed everyday fashions in everyday situations, and in him, as Alexander Liberman put it, ‘American fashion and the now liberated American woman had found their photographer’. 1

1. Liberman A 1971, 'An American modern', 'Irving Penn: passage - a work record', Alfred A Knopf, New York p 7

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007



printed 1949

Media category


Materials used

gelatin silver photograph


36.5 x 35.0 cm image/sheet; 50.5 x 40.5 cm board

Signature & date

Signed and dated c. verso, ink "Irving Penn... Jan 6, 1949 IP".


Gift of Edron Pty Ltd - 1995 through the auspices of Alistair McAlpine


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Irving Penn

Works in the collection


Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 4 publications


Judy Annear, Look, 'Discipline & Beauty Women, Fashion and Photography', pg. 14-16, Heidelberg, Jul 1997, 14-15 (illus.).

Judy Annear, Discipline and Beauty - women, fashion, photography, Sydney, 1997.

Robyn Daw (Curator), Architects of Glamour + Masters of Style: Excerpts from a Century of Fashion Photography, 2003. no catalogue numbers

Nicola Teffer, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Fashion and celebrity', pg.169-187, Sydney, 2007, 179 (illus.).