In the first post of this series, I mentioned the inspirational power of Irving Penn‘s Resonance exhibition. One of my favourite Penn images has long been his Miles Davis portrait, though I use the term loosely, for though his face does not feature within the frame, it is immediately recognisable to any fan of jazz.
Set against a grey background, and with shadows so deep that they are purest black, the portrait is simply of Davis’ left hand, a left hand which appears to be depressing trumpet valves. With those long and elegant digits it’s unmistakeable… except that Miles was right-handed! Was the shot reversed in the print process or did the two artists have sinister intent? Whatever the reason, seeing the original for the first time I appreciated the incredible detail of Penn’s work, highlighting every line within that palm, so much so that another of Penn’s subjects, Gypsy Rose Lee might have found opportunity to give a reading.
Today’s picture was of an attendant shepherding the queues outside the Doge’s Palace, and initially I was taken by his strong expression framed by that carefully shaped beard. Until I saw his left hand, which briefly led me to wonder about the man’s working history until I remembered where I was. In a city where rowing skills come more easily than riding a bike this web of lines would be far from unique.
- Irving Penn “On Assignment” (aumemoto.wordpress.com)