The model

Lisa Fonssagrieves-Penn (originally Lisa Birgitta Bernstone) was the favourite model and muse for the photographer Irving Penn. Here’s what she said about her role:

I would look at myself in the dressing room mirror before going on the set and instinctively try to solve the photographer’s problems. I would look at the cut of the dress and try different poses to see how it fell best; how the light would enhance it, and basically try to create a line the way one starts a drawing. I would objectify myself and become more of a director than an actress. I became this girl and not Lisa Fonssagrives. So that when I saw the contacts I would think, There that girl stands correctly, there she looks awkward…The photographer of course would have a lot to do with how one moved. Huene and Hoot created a kind of reality within a reality. Often they constructed sets for the type of woman who would wear the clothes to be photographed. There was time to prepare and time to work, and the sense of collaboration and camaraderie was marvellous. It was also a kind of game, that exchange that takes place through the lens. That is why I hate the word “shooting.” It implies something so one-sided and impersonal. It was never a “shooting,” but a sitting or a seance. I was terribly serious about being responsible and even studied photography to learn what the problems might be. I would stand before the camera on a set and concentrate my energy until I could sense it radiate into the lens and feel the photographer had the picture. It was very hard work!

Debbie CastroComment