with Charlotte Triggs
10/26/2009 at 01:00 AM EDT
Whether photographing an A-list luminary or a New Guinea tribesman, Irving Penn had an eye for capturing the unique dignity of his subject. Often working in black and white, the man whose iconic shoots for Vogue defined high-fashion imagery for much of the 20th century favored richly textured images set against stark backgrounds. "I put him on par with Stanley Kubrick, just in a different genre," says actress Nicole Kidman
. A reserved and gentle man, Penn, who died at his New York City home at age 92, brought the same perfectionist rigor to every assignment, whether he was shooting wife and muse Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn (with whom he had a son, Tom), producing ads or creating fine art. Throughout his career, Penn never lost sight of photography's inherent power. "I have always stood in awe of the camera," he said in 2001. "I recognize it for the instrument it is, part Stradivarius, part scalpel."