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A snapshot of Irving Penn

October 13, 2009

Re "Irving Penn, 1917-2009: A giant figure in photography," Obituary, Oct. 8

Irving Penn applied a highly personalized style to many subjects, and he expected the same from others.

When, as a teen, I showed Penn my modest portfolio, I was only hoping for a pat on the back. I got a challenge instead. "You're talented," he said, "but I see a lot of other photographers here, not you. Until you have your own vision, you're not going to go far in this business."

I left the studio confused but determined to ignore the parents, teachers and classmates who were telling me to "forget that stupid photography." I had a mission.

Only years later did I realize Penn was simply telling me to grow up and be myself. But his faith in my talent launched a lifelong career.

Spencer Grant

Laguna Niguel

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