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Irving Penn and Female Beauty
by Jane Eagle
2007-06-16 10:57:58
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Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Irving, oh rhyme’s not good, can I call you Stanley? Yeah it doesn’t rhyme either but it reminds me of Marlon in A Streetcar Named Desire. Hmm?

OK! Make room, ladies and gentlemen, for a great American photographer and his heavy cake – today Irving Penn turns 90. After doing the math – oh yeah, he was born in 1917 - World War II, Cold War, Vietnam, a goooood loooong life.

I love Penn’s work, especially his famous black & white portraits and his female nudes. Irving worked for many years doing fashion photography for Vogue Magazine, meaning that you gals must have seen his arty pictures while flipping through Vogue (vooogue, it sounds so glamorous, hm?)… His photographic lens captured some very important persons such as Marcel Duchamp, and Georgia O'Keeffe, W.H. Auden, Igor Stravinsky, and Marlene Dietrich.

His technique’s characterized by attention to detail, clarity and carefully arrangement of objects or people. Very often over the years his work (for example a series of posed nudes whose physical shapes range from thin to plump) was so ahead of its time that it only came to be appreciated in decades after the original day of creation.

Penn currently lives and works in New York City. He has published numerous books, including Still Life, Photographs of Dahomey & A Notebook at Random.

Whatever… his biography is not that important, I’d rather make a compare-contrast his Beauty Philosophy of a Woman with today’s perception of Female Beauty. Being a photographer for Vogue he had to do a lot with women and his main interest would be to catch their gorgeousness on film. What is interesting of his art is that he depicts female beauty exactly as it is in real life and not in fairy tales. He photographs normal breasts –sometimes saggy - it’s about aging people - fat ankles or knees, “flaw-full” yet lovable women.

This guy is a rare species. Man, nowdays we’re so overwhelmed with all these “perfect” female figures, skinny, fake like, so freaking disordered and photoshoped. Little girls are going crazy. I remember myself as a kid being jealous of the fashion models and actresses for having the right sized butt or nose. It was until later I discovered that’s not beauty, that’s just insecurity, anorexia nervosa and numerous plastic surgeries. I keep wondering why we mess up our nature that much.

The references to sex around us have been multiplied dramatically in the past few years just because Media and Society mirror the needs of the masses. In 21st century the dream of sex has clearly been established. The new American Dream is the Sex Dream. Everyone that walks on this Earth with has one basic desire, “must-have-sex, must-have-sex”!

How come our perception of beauty got that distorted? Hmmm, according to scientific researches (hehe) most men seem to like: Slim girls, busty breasts, small nose, small chin, long silky hair, smooth skin and juicy lips. Rather infrequently does nature gifts a woman with all of these features: a girl hardly ever has both full lips and a small chin / it’s quite impossible for a girl to be thin and busty breasted. Alright, nature screwed up… Thank God there’re the plastic surgeons to alter female looks. Thank god –furthermore- for Photoshop that can promote unnatural body & facial proportions in publicity photos. Great, now teenage boys think a girl’s breasts should be round like a balloon, and a girl’s wish is to have fleshy porn-lips like her celebrity idol –let’s not call names here…

The whole misunderstanding was the equation of beauty with sensuality. No. I gotta choose more suitable words for my statement: The whole misunderstanding was the equation of exterior appearance with sensuality. On account of plastic surgery advancements and people’s craving for sex, society tried to materialize a woman’s aura at the time she flirts her male victim. Hey! Girls need a beauty canon to follow so that they’ll be able to achieve multiple orgasms (metaphorically & literally), right?

Yet true sensuality lies on HER dilated pupils, HER warm smiles –while a woman’s lips swell and redden when stimulated sexually, HER seductive body language and tone of voice. There are women very hot, and some not so -something which is reflected at their behavior. But solid eroticism is not engraved in the physiognomies, but arises through them each time a love interest shows up. Therefore:

A woman is erotic when she is in love.

A woman is beautiful when she loves herself.

The society tried to find the exact picture of human beauty along with sex appeal. Huge mistake! Because there can’t be just one picture, but there are billions of them that concern small, very small groups of individuals.

Enjoy Irving Penn’s pictures –truly beautiful and erotic…

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Sand2007-06-16 11:22:47
Although I am in no way immune to the spherical delights of a female body bouncing through space which hormones and a nervous system formed by genetic ambitions commands my attention, there is another human being there with huge possibilities in all directions which, in the end, is far more interesting and seductive.

Paparella2007-06-16 16:42:14
An interesting excerpt from "Romance and
Rationalism" by Lindsay Perigo

"In seeking a romantic partner, many Objectivists begin with a floating abstraction called John Galt, or Howard Roark, or Dagny Taggart — characters from Ayn Rand's novels. These characters always know their own minds, never falter, never experience fear, doubt, or confusion, never err, never belch, never break wind, never fumble when uncorking the wine. They are without flaw, failing or foible. In reality, they don't exist. But such is the power of Ayn Rand's projection of them that many Objectivists will settle for nothing less in their own lives, heedless of the fact that such "shortcomings" have been omitted from Rand’s characterisations simply because "in art, as in life, one ignores the unimportant." The consequences of this rationalistic attitude are personal misery & destruction — the very opposite of what Rand intended."

Sand2007-06-16 18:46:45
I take it that these Objectivists or Rationalists are guilty of preferring partners who do not fart or belch or vomit in public or get drunk and piss on lamp posts or bathe infrequently. Shame on them! Real men like Mr. Perigo or perhaps Mr Paparella do not kowtow to inhibited behavior. No wonder the divorce rate is so high.

Paparella2007-06-16 19:03:26
Here is another excerpt from somebody else to try the lance of your witticism against: Hal Duncan in "The Eternal Moment of Modernity":

The Rationalist looking up into the heavens today sees the stars and planets, sun and moon, cycles of seasons, months and days measured in time that warps and twists, sees cycles of centuries, precessions of equinoxes, processions of arcane symbols still alive in the imagination, symbols of ancient civilisations now in ruins, the whole cosmos not as clock and calendar but as a new deep, a new abyss, a new wilderness where the only real frame is the edge of the watering hole we stand outside of, children of kings and animals, leaning down to be surprised at our own reflection, seeing ourselves against that backdrop, looking for the eternal moment where essence and existence collide and collude in a Rational Romanticism, a Romantic Rationalism.

Sand2007-06-16 19:47:37
Goodness! I feel witty, oh so witty without pity, not shitty but merely just bright. On this wonderful cosmical night. (with a bow to "West Side Story")
The universe is many things to many people at many times and frequently at the same time. In respect to this particular post I consider us also children also of queens also many of the odd creatures that preceded the vertebrates, but basically of the forces of the universe itself and not standing outside this monumental dynamic activity but within it, immersed in all its forces and influences and an integral part of its structure.

Paparella2007-06-16 21:43:23
Witty/shitty...indeed they rhyme and make one feel very witty; not quite an oxymoron yet, not a both/and but a first step to fame and glory in a universe without meaning except in one's mind.

But as the bard said via the child of another queen: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy" (Hamlet (I, v, 166-167.

Sand2007-06-16 21:55:11
Paparella, in one's mind is all you or any of us has got. It may not be much of a mind but it will have to do. I really don't know or understand what kind of meaning you would prefer. I'm not unhappy about it. Maybe you are but that's your problem. Perhaps you could try to write some of your own stuff instead of chopping out quotes in the hopes it will gain you some borrowed respectability.

Paparella2007-06-16 23:32:59
Since you are a rationalist and consequently proud of your logical prowess and of the academic degree that your bio shows (without specifying what exactly the specialization is in) let us examine a bit carefully this charge of yours that my comments on Vico’s philosophy are obscure and not understandable in the least. Let me state some facts first:

--I have a Ph.D. from Yale University with a dissertation on Vico (The Paradox of Transcendence and Immanence in Vico’s concept of Providence, 1990).
--Said dissertation was defended successfully before a panel of experts on the subject. It is also in the public domain.
--The dissertation was subsequently published as a book on Vico: Hermeneutics in the Poetic Philosophy of Giambattista Vico, Mellen Press, New York, 1993. It was reviewed and it is available on most of the leading on-line bookstores.
--A subsequent book came out: A New Europe in Search of its Soul (AuthorHouse, Indiana, 2005) which is imbued with Vico’s philosophy and whose very first essay is on Vico (see site www.newoldworld.com ). It was also peer-reviewed positively and has sold widely since its publication in both the EU and the US.

Nobody has ever charged that those publications were bogus and obfuscating. You are the only one to do so. I do not know about the reception from Ovi readers, I’ll let the editors speak out if they so wish, but judging from the reception of my previous article on Levinas, I suspect that it has not come any way close to your negative one.

Given the above facts my question to you remains: do you think that at least a shadow of a doubt ought to be entertained that your comments may be motivated by ignorance of philosophy in general and Vico in particular and, even worse, by a bias and/or an ax to grind against religion?

Sand2007-06-17 00:04:58
I am not proud nor interested in either my degree nor yours. Stop waving your license to graduate in my face. It has no relevance in proving to me that I understand your writing. The proof of that is when I say clearly "Yes, I understand." and either agree or disagree. That is only for me to say. If you do not understand that very simple fact I shall have to give you up as being stupid, whatever your academic qualifications might be, and I think neither one of us prefers that.

Jane E.2007-06-17 00:13:46
Hey time-out, guys.

We're here to share thoughts...

So what with the degree list?

Sand2007-06-17 00:27:21
I agree, Jane. It's past midnight here in Helsinki and I am making no headway in getting decent conversation out of this.
I'm going to bed.

Jane E.2007-06-17 00:43:09
Goodnight Sand :))

Paparella2007-06-17 06:10:59
Good night and pleasant dreams. Sleep is good. It raises the peace vibrations of the entire world. Or should it be a good morning?

Jane E.2007-06-17 07:00:38


All good :p

Sand2007-06-17 08:57:34
OK, it’s morning. Let’s be civil, direct and simple. Obviously both Paparella and I are concerned about the state of the world and want to, if nothing else, locate the source of the problem with some indication as to what might be done. I am interested in Paparella because his objections to current culture seem to me to be so far off the mark and yet I cannot accuse him of not being passionate. The bulk of his objections seem to center on the general loss of some sort of poetic outlook and this is where my comprehension goes totally astray. I am very fond of poetry but, to me, like any art form, it consists of much wide variation, much word play, much emotional display, but no single center of any particular attitude. There are poems that are pure clever fun, tirades against all sorts of oppression, legal, political, sexual, theological etc. A good deal admires the intricacy of the world and masses are concerned with some guy or gal totally involved in the particulars of another individual submerged in hormonal submission. Lots of it is very good, lots seem to me to be a total bore. Although individual poems may be concerned with some particular social point of view, in its entirety, poetry has no particular logic that I can discern. Paparella thinks I am obdurate and prejudiced in declaring that poetic logic is an oxymoron, that the term contains within itself conflicting elements that cancel it out. This is only one point but it seems to be a central one. Any good argument is aware that basic terms are frequently used in common speech in many ways so it does not assume common understanding of these terms but carefully delineates precisely what they mean within this particular context. For one starting point, I would very much like a clear simple definition of poetic logic. It seems crucial and deserves precision.

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