Irving Penn: Small Trades

5 March - 24 April 2010

In 2010, Hamiltons presented the first Irving Penn Small Trades exhibition in Europe, comprising a selection of twenty-four black and white platinum palladium prints. This followed the Getty Museum's landmark acquisition and exhibition from September 2009 - January 2010.


Beginning in Paris, then London and New York, Penn photographed the Small Trades between 1950 and 1951, when he was thirty-three years old. Penn set out to create representations of tradespeople in their work clothes, carrying the tools of their profession.


The format, similar throughout - whether the sitter is a butcher, fishmonger or chimney sweep - is full length, frontal and invariably standing. A neutral backdrop, often an old theatre curtain, and natural light set the stage on which his subjects present themselves - an atmospheric 'visual nowhere' that Penn was instrumental in popularising as a staple of fashion photography.


Small Trades became vastly significant in the advancement of Penn's career, and evolved into his most extensive body of work. There are over two hundred images within the series, printed in both the original gelatin silver and platinum palladium. This exhibition focused on the latter, which Penn began to make in the mid-1960s after several years of experimenting with the process.