Three Rissani Women by Irving Penn (1971)

The photograph “Three Rissani Women” by Irving Penn was taken in 1971. It depicts three women in traditional, voluminous robes that drape and fold around their forms. The backdrop is plain and emphasizes the subjects. Two of the women are upright, one standing and one seated, with their bodies fully covered including their heads, suggesting an alignment with cultural dress codes that prioritize modesty. The third woman is seated and leans forward, her face partially obscured by her wrapped headgear and hand, giving her a sense of immediacy and presence within the frame. The textures of their garments are accentuated by the lighting, and the monochromatic palette of the image further focuses the viewer’s attention on the shapes and forms created by the clothing. The image exudes a sense of quietude and the composition reflects a blend of Irving Penn’s stylized portraiture with ethnographic representation.

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