Irving Penn: Flower Power

22 November 2007 - 1 January 2008

Hamiltons' Flower Power exhibition united two bodies of Irving Penn's work: flowers, dating from 1967 to 2006, and ethnographic studies of San Francisco hippies and Hell's Angels, taken between 1964 and 1971. These two distinct series are strongly related in the context of the 'Flower Power' movement of the 1960s. The 'Flower Power' slogan, attributed to the American poet Allen Ginsberg, was used by hippies during the late 1960s and early 1970s as a symbol of peace, rooted in opposition to the Vietnam War.


The exhibition featured four different printing processes, each meeting Penn's consistently high standard of quality: colour dye transfer and pigment prints of flowers, black and white platinum palladium and gelatin silver prints of hippies and Hell's Angels. 


Penn presents us with an exceptional vision of forms, tones and patterns in his Flowers series, entwining the beauty of nature with his photographic genius. "I can claim no special knowledge of horticulture… I even confess to enjoying that ignorance since it has left me free to react with simple pleasure just to form and colour, without being diverted by considerations of rarity or tied to the convention that a flower must be photographed at its moment of unblemished, nubile perfection."


Penn photographed two famous rock groups, The Grateful Dead and Big Brother and the Holding Company, encouraging the viewer to reflect on the events of an era which shaped our culture and left us with a powerful visual legacy.