Although best known for his fashion photography, Irving Penn also created modernist still life works of metal and found objects. While these works certainly have an affinity with European still life masters, Penn's unique ability as a photographer marks these experimental and witty images apart. John Szarkowski commented, "Penn has been one of photography's conspicuous innovators and distinguished performers in at least two of the medium's oldest and most successful genres: still life and portraiture."
For a number of years Penn accumulated objects he would find which obsessed him. This included scraps of glass, bone, metal and even human skulls. In 1979 and 1980 he made thirty-two negatives, printing them in platinum palladium throughout the following years.
These works were perhaps of personal importance to Penn, he later commented, "When the prints were shown I admit I was surprised at the hostility they provoked."