tv Charlie Rose PBS May 30, 2017 12:00pm-1:01pm PDT
>> rose: webbum to the program. >> rose: welcome to the program. happy memorial today. tonight theater and urban pen. we begin with the writer of the broadway musical "dear evan hansen." ben platt. >> the first 12 and 15 minutes when you get to see evan and get to see him give his first monohog you get how deep a hole''s in and how in need o a savior he is so you understand how he falls into this. >> rose: we continue with cynthia nixon on broadway and the little foxes and in a film called the quiet passion, she plays emily dickinson. >> i think people who don't intend to come twice come sand see it one way and then come back because the rules are so
different. because you see us in the first way, it's impossible to see us in the second way. >> rose: the urban pen exhi pigs at the metropolitan museum of art. we talk to jeff rosenheim. >> he understood the page of the magazine and how a picture would sit in, inc. h in the magazine and demanded it stop traffic and by doing so he applied all the training and art to the challenge. i mean, she was basically a vogue photographer for over 60 years. most of his pictures in the show were seen there and, yet, he was able to make prints on his own that have other qualities. that's the art. >> rose: theater and photography. when we continue.
>> and by bloomberg, a provider of multimedia news and information services worldwide. captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> rose: "dear evan hansen" is running at the music box theater here in new york, following a high school student with severe anxiety getting caught up in a social media fueled movement after a fellow classmate commits suicide. the "new york times" writes ben platt is giving a performance not likely to be bettered on broadway this season. "dear evan hansen" is nominated for nine tonys including best musical. hear's a look. ♪ when you're in a forest and
there's no one around ♪ ♪ do you ever make a crash or a sound ♪ ♪ when you're falling in a forest and there's no one around ♪ ♪ do you ever crash or make a sound ♪ ♪ will i ever make a sound ♪ on the outside always looking in ♪ ♪ will i ever be more ♪ i try to speak ♪ nobody can hear ♪ so i wait for an answer to appear ♪ ♪ waiting through a window ♪ can anybody see ♪ is anybody waiting -- is anybody waving back at me ♪ ♪ ♪ waving
♪ waving ♪ whoa oh... ( cheers and applause ) >> rose: joining me is star ben platt nominated for best actor in a musical and writer stephen levinson nominated for best book of a musical, pleased to have them both at this table for the first time. welcome. great to have you here. >> thanks for vugs. >> rose: who is evan hansen? a really lonely kid. teenager in high school. he is incredibly isolated, has trouble connecting to other people and that is heightened by the hyperconnectivity of social media and the fact with young people, everything they're doing online is instantaneously judged and looked at, so he feels under deep scrutiny which makes him retreat anymore and he can't find a place to belong and be heard and feel connected to anyone or anything. and through this sort of rather terrible lie that he tells about a fake friendship with a kid in
his class who has committed suicide, even grows very close to the grieving family of the kid and helps them to heal in a wayened finds a new voice and confidence and a place to be important and belong and finds a new confidence and starts to come out of his shell although it's all predicated on this fabrication. >> rose: is it also a critique of social media? >> when we started working on this, ben, justin and i and my fellow writers and composers of the music, we initially talked about it as more of a frontal critique on social media, more of a parody or satire and, as the show evolved, i think what we really bam interested in was exploring, yes, how social media was promote this kind of false idea of who we are and we're all kind of performing on there. >> rose: and do we belong. yes, exactly, but, at the same time, there is something real that happens on there. there is a sense of belonging that people find, a sense of
connection, and, so, it really is this double-edged sword. >> rose: when you thought about this, when you guys wrote this, was it based on a newspaper headline you'd seen or a story you'd seen? these things actually happen. >> absolutely. it was based originally on one of the composers in high school had a classmate who died of an accidental drug overdose and he was someone who was a real loner, an outsider, no friends, and in the wake of his death, binge watched as his fellow students watched to say i was friends with him, our lockers were close to each other. everyone wanted a part of the tragedy. benj stored it as way as troubling. benj went to college, met
justin paul and they both discussed the story. we all knew people who had written college is says about their place in 9/11. social media, that kind of insertion into tragedy seems only to escalate and get crazier until any kind of catastrophe in the world became a way for people to talk about themselves. then when the three of us began working together, that was really where we began. >> rose: what was the average age of the three of you. >> the average age, we were all, i believe, 27, maybe 28. no, wait, that's not true. we have been working on this for so long. we were, like, 26. we were really young. >> rose: still are. thank you. >> rose: you have to make sure that we explore him and all he's done and the lies he's telling yet at the same time make him a character that people don't reject. >> certainly. i think that was always from the beginning of development, i came
on board three years ago, was the focus on my part and stephen and i together was making sure that the audience understood at every turn why he was making the decisions he have making and you were seeing it was all coming from a place of good intention and wanting to heal and help people and i think one of the most effective things about the show is the first 12 or 15 minutes when you get to meet evan and see him give his first monologue and sing his first song, you get an idea of the kid and how deep a hole he's in and how in need of a savior he is so you understand why he false into this light because it's so perfectly presented to him. >> rose: is he a savior at some point. >> i think on some level it ends up being a savior and forces him to connect in a way he never has but also a dark side in facing his demons and not liking who he sees in the mirror, but at the end of the day it starts a conversation with him and his
mother. it seems to bust the door open for conversations. that's what it does for even. >> rose: congratulations on the nomination. >> thank you so much. >> rose: when you write the book, what does that mean? >> it means essentially my responsibility is partly to structure things, to kind of come up with the road map, and then all the dialogue. what it meant in this case because we had no source material. often you have a book or a movie. benj, justin and i came up together with the rudiments of a sterned some characters, then i went off and wrote the first act as though it were a play and left spaces where the three of us had decided songs might go. then i sent them that draft, and they looked at it and said, okay, well, here, where we thought there would be a song, actually i think the song comes
earlier so the scene needs to be shorter or longer. so it's a lot of -- it's kind of building the skeleton. >> rose: how do you explain the resonance it has other than great acting -- >> i think it accurately without filter or lens depict the contemporary world and the way people are connecting and the way social media plays into that and doesn't make too harsh of a judgment on it, just sorts of presents it how it is and how we connect as humesens. i think even as a universallality as far as his loneliness and his desire to reach out and be reached out to. i think everyone in the show can go on this journey with him not only because it's beautifully written that he has self-effacing humor and has
beautiful songs and a beautiful character but people find themselves in him. >> rose: this is what your mother talked and the "new york times." she says i contemplate ben's emotional state every day and how much time he spends alone. he's only 23 and should be with friends. how proud can a moth were. >> she's the most beautiful human being on the earth. this is a demanding role. i take it seriously, the responsibility to curate this evening and to create it eight times a week and give the same kind of emotional intensity and make sure the audience is having identical experience as possible and that requires a loft me as far as sacrificing social life and my lifestyle gets really affected but, of course, this is the kind of piece that is so beauty any written and so deeply felt that you want to give
yourself to it and make the sacrifices to it because they don't come along all the time especially musical theater. >> rose: you have been working with the same actors for years? >> yes, in the first reading four of the actors were in it. >> rose: has it cause to change the writing? >> these actors helped shaped the material, absolutely, especially ben with this character. i think part of the reason the show resonates is ben's per force is so specific and it's that strange paradox of specificity. the more specificity, the more universality. ben and i have had conversations where he'll do something, i respond to it in writing and h he response in performance. that's been a pleasure. >> rose:. one of the things stephen does brilliantly is finding things in ourselves that we're not noticing and they wind up
beautifully flushed out in the writing and really taking advantage of the performers he has and what comes naturally and honestly to them. that's what i feel makes the characters feel beautifully honest is he uses the seeds of that to create a big idea. >> rose: "i feel as long as i do this role, everything i have to do is to be in the servicer of that. i don't want a single person to leave without getting what i have the to offer. i don't feel anything can be so jen or powerful that is not taking a toll. i am definitely willing to take the toll, whatever it might be. is there a toll? is the endurance of doing it and the requirements of singing that much and the demands on you to perform at the center of this? >> sure. the literal toll would be the physical and vocal demands and the physical therapy lessons. there's an emotional toll to go to such a dark place eight times a week and make it as real as possible is not always the
easiest thing to do particularly if it's an audience that's a little bit less responsive or a day that's a little lower on energy. >> rose: you can foal that if they're less responsive. >> sure, the beautiful piece about the piece is people go on a journey every night. by virtue of anything from the weather to what's going on in the world to the age of the people in the crowd sometimes it takes them a little longer to get on the ride and they're not as vocal. >> rose: what do you do if you sense that? >> try not to push. i think the instinct is always to sort of go harder and to try to win them, but i think the great thing is the material is fantastic and it's specific and beat to beat and so if you lay back and let the show do its job and sort of not try to slam on the acceleration then they come to you eventually. >> rose: that's a very good way of putting it.
the cast singing "you will be found." ♪ when you need a friend to carry you ♪ ♪ when you're broken on the ground. ♪ you will be found. ♪ so let the sun come streaming in ♪ ♪ you open your eyes again ♪ if you only look around ♪ you will be found ♪ you will be found ♪ you will be found ♪ you will be found ♪ . >> rose: yeah, i asked what's the average age of the cast you said somewhere in the middle. >> we've got five people in there early to mid 20s playing teenagers and then we have adults most of them in their mid 40s playing the parents. >> rose: you never show him in therapy, though, do you? >> no. >> rose: why not? you know, i think we wanted to get to know eve evan with him
especially. that's the way we want to get to know the character and the lens through which we see him. therapy tends to be boring to writers because they're so reductive in a way. it's sort of like writing an interview, you know where, you have one character whose job is to really just say, and how does that make you feel? so whereas with his mom or his peers, there's a level of unpredictability that forces evan -- >> rose: and a higher level of engagement, too. >> absolutely, yes. >> rose: it runs how long? indefinitely. tilt end of the world. >> rose: yes, it's indefinitely. does it give you any time to do anything else? >> not really. we have mondays off. >> rose: this is not a theme on my part. ( laughter ) >> we have mondays off, i try to spend that doing restful, nice things. but, you know, this is a really exciting time and it's -- i love being inundated in it, it's
obviously temporary and i want to take it as it comes. >> rose: because it's become such a sensation here, are you getting advice from other people who have also conquered the new york musical stage? >> sure, we have a lot of actors that come and i'll get to see them afterwards and they'll offer their pieces of -- >> rose: their congratulations. >> the thing about the show is people are moved at the end and feel really opened up. so when i get to interact with people whether other actors or people at the stage door, everybody is so effusive and wanting to be old with me because they feel we've had a shared morguesle experience so that's my favorite time to talk to people. but also to do self-care so i can be a human being. >> rose: "only us" eevan singing with his girlfriend. ♪ it will be us
♪ it will with us and only us ♪ and what came before won't count anymore ♪ ♪ you and me e ♪ that's all that we needed to be ♪ ♪ and the rest of the world falls away ♪ ♪ and the rest of the world falls away ♪ >> rose: congratulations. thank you very much. >> rose: this is terrific. thanks. >> rose: glad to have you here. stephen, thank you very much. >> thank you. >> rose: we'll be right back. stay with us. >> rose: cynthia nixon is here. she is an emmy, tony and grammy-award winning actress currently starring along lawyeria lenny in a revival of "the little foxes" on broadway. nixon and lenny alternate in the lead role of regina and supporting role of birdie. birdie performance earned nixon
her fourth tony nomination. here's a look at her in that role. >> aunt birdie. why did you marry uncle oscar? >> i don't know. i thought i liked him. and he was so kind to me. and i taut that was because he liked me, too. but that wasn't the reason. ask why he married me. i could tell you that. he's told me often enough. >> miss birdie, don't. y family was good and the cotton on the fields was better. ben hubbard wanted the cotton and oscar hubbard married it for him. he used to be nice to me then. he used to smile at me. he hasn't smiled at me since. everybody knew that's what he
married me for. everybody but me. stupid! stupid me! >> rose: nixon also stars in terrance david's new film "a quiet passion" as emily dickinson, the renowned 19t 19th century poet. pleased to have cynthia nixon back at this table. welcome. >> thank you i. >> rose: i only saw this once before in true west when actors alternate roles. but that was a two-person play. >> eyes, and there was a big 19th and early 20th century of two actors doing a fellow and alternating. not so much anymore. >> rose: laura lenny comes up with the idea. >> yes. >> rose: and say what do you think of this. >> yeah. >> rose: and you bought it right away. >> right away is that why? because of the challenge? >> well, i love the play. i've always loved the idea of playing regina, but as laura, i think herself felt, birdie was a
treasure of a role albeit a smaller role. i've worked with laura on television but never on stage, so the chance to work with her on this play with dan sullivan and in this tremendous theatrical experiment which i think women don't get to do very often, men more. >> rose: part of it is a challenge. >> yes. >> rose: there was a thing about you in college, did two plays at the same time. >> i did. but this -- i mean, i think even people who aren't intending to come twice, often they come and see it one way and then they say, well, i have to come back because the roles are so different, once you see us in the first way, it's sort of impossible to imagine us if the second way, and i think there are also -- because the play is so meaty itself and so many people don't know the play before they come, giving the audience a chance to hear it twice, i think they absorb a lot more of the nuances of it. >> rose: did you think you were going to play birdie first? was that your first instinct?
>> no. when they called me, it was with this offer. >> rose: oh, i see. yeah. so... >> rose: when you watch her -- yes. >> rose: -- in a role that you've just played -- >> yes. >> rose: -- do you see insights into the character that maybe you hadn't seen. >> i do. i see things i can steal and i steal them when i can. and i think it was harder for us both when we were first rehearsing it, but now i think that we have our own characterizations and we're more secure in them. again, still i find little things like, oh, that's interesting, either i can take it or it helps me understand another dimension of the character. >> rose: which character do you identify with most? >> well, it's hard to identify with regina. >> rose: yeah, of course. you know, birdie is a much more empathetic and sympathetic character, albeit a sadder one. so i think birdie is easier to relate to, which is, i think, part of the reason laura came up with the idea in the first
place. she said i understand birdie and i can relate to birdie. regina is kind of foreign territory to me. >> rose: this is what the "new york times" said. in most roles, ms. nixon has a steely quality. ms. lenny's effect is more yielding. ms. nixon plays regina's deviousness from the start which is a treat, but ms. lenny keeps it concealed for a while which makes a stinging surprise. when it comes to melty mush silly, birdie, bullied and beaten by her husband, ms. lenny uses her sweeten to effect while ms. nixon's heartbreaking twitters and fluters, layering birdie's pain with a complicated self-loathing. sounds pretty good. >> sounds pretty good. >> rose: do you recognize that, though, when they say that? >> i mean, i think that's one of the things that i feel that birdie, you know, you want to think that birdie had this very happy childhood and then was hoodwinked into marrying this man who's very cruel to her, but i think the roots of her
insecurity and her pain come in her childhood. she talks about her mother and has only really great things to say about her mother but she always talks about what a ninny she is and how her mother's always laughing at her, and i think that feeling that birdie has right from, you know, the beginning about, oh, i'm so silly, so dumb, whatever, i think she got that message from her mother early on whether she knows it or not. >> rose: how do they view each other? >> i think one of the sort of disappointing things about our experiment is they don't deal with each other much. we don't have a lot of scenes together. i think, in effect, they don't really matter to each other. i think there are certain things that each admire about the other, but i think there are air aias of disapproval of each other are greater than their areas of approval. >> rose: when did you make the emily dickinson "a quiet passion"? >> two years ago, we made it in belgium. we re-created the dickinson home s.t.d. in a antwerp: i never
thought i would get to play emily dickinson. it was daunting to play such a brilliant person, but i think i've always felt a lot of identification with her. so it was less daunting because of that. >> rose: and there had never been other movies about her? >> well, there was the one person play the belle of am amht in the '70s. but it's certainly not a film. it's more of a -- i don't know, it's not a real exploration. it's more of a character study. >> rose: she had dismissive opinions about marriage. how would you characterize it. >> well, i wouldn't characterize them as dismissive. i think she had two main things one, of them was she was terrified that she would die in childbirth and i think that was such a reality around her and it was such a strong possibility in those days, and i think the
other thing was she knew that she really wanted to write, and she knew that if she was a wife or a wife and mother, they would not have afforded the hours in a day much less a husband who would even permit that? >> rose: beyond the poetry, what else do you admire about her? >> i admire certainly the determination to shut her self in her room day after day, decade after decade and to write about to be so true to a voice that was so out of keeping with her time. it's much more -- her voice seems much more at home in our modern world. i mean, she pre-figures modernism and there's so much poetry of that era that's so flowery and goes on page after page and her poetry is so pear and distilled and i think that takes a great amount of discipline.
>> rose: she talked about got a fair amount. >> whether there is a got, what death means, if there is an afterlife, if there is a hell, what causes us to be sent there, and i think she talked about a lot of us in eternity that we're afraid of and she looked at them so unstintingly and asked herself hard, hard painful questions. >> rose: when you do something like that film do you read the poetry? >> i didn't read all 1800, but i tried to read as many as i could, and i tried to read the better-known ones and tried to read in each period. she's like picasso. you can sort of recognize her but she is so don't period to period. >> rose: which period did you like the most? >> well, i think when i was young, i liked more of the rapturous stuff, you know, about nature and the wonders of the natural world. then when i was a little older, i think i loved the sort of
heart osik, impossible love, forbidden love, thwarted love stuff. but now that i'm over 50, i really like the ones that are much more, you know, looking at eternity and in such a profound way. i feel like they're less rapturous but they're sign sightful. >> rose: she -- they're so insightful. >> rose: she had a sense of humor. >> yes. this is important to terrence that this not be a stately masterpiece theater. she was a rebel but she had anger and humor with which she saw the world. it might be a painful humor but a humor as a person viewing the distance between how things are and how we think things are supposed to be. >> rose: did her feelings about sexuality play into her
isolationism? >> ates complicated question. i think she was a person who craved miewn yon of every kind so strong will you but i think she felt things so deeply that proximity to people was too difficult and i think the idea of giving herself to one person. i mean, she has all these love affairs and we don't know if they have a physical component or not or they're just on paper and, you know, but i think the idea of giving herself to someone physically or at least in the long term was too much, that that loss of herself was something that was too frightening to her. >> rose: here's an excerpt. here's a piece. this is where she is reciting up with of her poems. roll tape. >> i reckon, when i count out all, first potes, then the sun, then summer, then the heaven of god, and then the list is done. but looking back, the first so
seems to comprehend the whole. the others look a needless show. so i write poets all. their summer lasts a solid year. they can afford a sun the east would deem extravagant. and if the further heaven be beautiful as they prepare for those who worship them, it is too difficult a grace to justify the dream. >> rose: did she acknowledge her attraction to her sister-in-law? >> i think so. i mean, the thing aboutumly's relationship with susan -- the thing about emily's relationship with susan, this is not in the film, whatever great love the two had for each other it pre-figured her being the sister-in-law. emily was attached to susan before susan and emily's brother austin met. the letters seem like romantic
love letters, at least to our modern eye, and emily seems to have had a hope, a plan the two women would live together through their life. that was thwarted. emily went through a lot of different feelings about susan in her life and sometimes she viewed her as an enemy, certainly, a very duplicitous enemy, but i think it's very noteworthy that when emily sent someone a po it was all dressed up with flowers and presented almost with a bit of japanese finery, with that level of ceremony about it. susan is the only one she would send her poetry to written in pencil meaning i want your feedback and it will go into what i eventually do with this poem. >> rose: would she have been better in another era? >> it's so hard to say. i mean, in a funny way, i think
that she would have been -- i think she would have been an outsider whatever era she was in. she was not a joiner, emily. but i do think that, in some ways, our modern world, which affords you so much connection but at such a remove, i think she would have been very happy on email or twitter. >> rose: as you understood this role, as you began to portray her and thought about her life, did you see some of yourself in her? >> you know, i think -- >> rose: or her in you? i think that when i was young, i thought i saw a lot of myself in her. but i think it was a very surfacey idea of who she was. i thought, here's a person who's deeply interesting but presents an outward show of shyness but saying to the world come and talk to me i'm so fascinating if you only take the trouble to get to know me. but i think i didn't understand when i was young the depth of
her isolation, and i'm certainly a very unisolated person. >> rose: you certainly are. yes. >> rose: we can say that at at least. >> yes. >> rose: i want to go back to little foxes and one other scene here. this is you as regina conspiring with two brothers. here it is. >> good morning, ben. fine sunny morning. any news from the rainwear is this. >> there's no news or you would have heard it. a convention so flirl the morning, aren't you all? >> you're rising mighty late these days. is that the way they do things in "chicago"? >> cart died? centerville. 81. soon be time for us all. what do you think's really happened to horace, regina? >> nothing. you don't think he never started from baltimore, never intended to start? >> of course they started. didn't i have a letter from alexandra? what is so strange about people arriving late? he has that cousin in savannah he's so fond of. maybe he stopped off to see him.
>> uh-huh. they will be along today some time. very flattered that you and oscar have been so worried. >> natural worier especially when i'm getting ready to close a wiz deal and one of my partners remanses silent and invisible. >> i thought you were worried about horace's health. >> that, too. who could help but be worried. i'm worried. this is the first day i haven't shot since my head cold. >> and you haven't had your breakfast. come along. >> rose: where did the voice come from? >> the voice? do you mean the accent? >> rose: yes. i mean, how did you practice that? how did you decide that's the right note for her? >> well, i mean, uh, as the performances have gone on because, of course, that's footage taken very early in previews -- is that it has changed to what? >> it has changed to -- well, i think regina's gotten a lot deeper, and i think birdie's got an lot lighter. one person is very assured, and
one person is so eager to please and so fearful that she won't. >> rose: good to have you. thank you. >> thank you. >> rose: i should mention, "little foxes" as she said plays till july 2 at the samuel j. freedman theater. we'll be right back. stay with us. >> rose: irving penn was one of the most influential and celebrated photographers to have the century, career spans almost seven decades and best known for working at voguehmagazine. his early photographs of couture are considered master pieces, yet form and biewdy, bore traitture and nudes. his exhibit at metropolitan museum of art marks the centennial of his birth. jeff rosenheim is the curator in charge of the museum and
organized the exhibition and we're fortunate to have him joining me now. this is something. >> pleasure to be on your program. >> rose: tell me about irving penn. >> he is one of the greatest picture makers of the century. we knew a lot about penn. his work appeared in "vogue." 165 covers alone. he worked every day. his work ethic was amazing. i've had the pleasure to do lots of shows. works on robert frank, walker evans. >> rose: right. william eggleston. but there's something about penn that i didn't understand which is that, while he was making those great passion portraits that you know, while he was doing to pictures, portraits of citizens, the small trades or petite, he was making great still lives and extraordinary prints. he was a great imagemaker but he was a splendid objectmaker and that's the story that comes out of the show.
>> rose: still life were in color and all the portraiture -- >> most of the portraiture is in black and white except cover images. but he shot color and black and white simultaneously. that's its own story. what does a picture in color look like in the mag sine and how could he trueness form it later on in his life to an extraordinary black and white print and we learn from seeing it on the walls of the museum. >> rose: what's the challenge to put together this kind of exhibition? you can do it chronologically, that's easy. >> ewe had to focus on, for someone who worked almost 70 years, we had to focus on the most sailient moments of his career, otherwise the show would have 6 or 7,000 photographs. no one can appreciate that. we had the to synthesize. i did this with me colleague who hired me 30 years ago at the met. it was like bringing her back in. we are told you can't step into the same river twice but she was able to do it.
she called me on the phone one day and kind of whisper in my ear, might want to call tom penn, irving penn's son, looking for something to honor the centennial of the artist's birth. that led to a conversation and that conversation led to a visit to an amazing facility that has the life's work of irving penn, and i was treated to months of about a year of just looking at pictures. that's how we did it by looking at the pictures. >> rose: they spoke to you. they spoke to us. >> rose: is it some kind of a bark. >> first of all, one of the things i got from it is he started as painter and draftsman 6789 he was trained in tarts and art school and came to photography through a sort of set of circumstances. but drawing and the idea of the silhouette and the idea of a sculptor's style of making a picture where the photograph is put together in an interesting
way, all of that in the line of still life is something you can see over the 70 years. take a look at some of these. people have seen some of these photographs where they have recognized from seeing before. i'm sure they will. "after dinner games." >> ah, there it is. this is a picture made like no other i know. it ran in 1947. it is a color image. it's put together in an interesting way. you can see the doubling cube from backgammon where you see the 6 and the 4, and the die with the 6 and the 4 pips, and the domino with the two 5s adding up to 10. everything is connected one form to the other, one color to the other. it requires the eye to move around to complete the competition. that's the game. that's the afterdinner game. the afterdinner game is trying to understand this picture. this is from the beginning of his career. >> rose: next one is
cigarettes 37. >> so we have an entire room of pictures of butts that penn collected like a butterfly collector on the streets of manhattan in brooklyn. he and his studio assistants used tweezers and picked them damp out of the gutter. penn brought them into the studio and, in between other projects, he would put them together, mixing in this case chesterfield and ca camel, and creating forms that had no life until he brought them together. then, this -- again, this still life is coming through this life time of experience. these are from 1972. if a certain sense, it's an homage to his friendship to lexi
broadovich. broadovich brings him to new york, i think they work on the saks account together. they raised enough money to buy a camera and it served him the rest of his career. >> rose: "deli package." it's common for anyone living in new york city and around the world, but it's been smashed by time and drugs and pedestrians and it's soiled and penn loved the idea of the form which is part of a two-headed camel but we all know it as a deli package. penn brought it into the studio and developed a camera technique to reveal it. it's smashed to the ground, then this exploagd dirt. it has a fabulous object value. it's a platinum print. penn didn't just accept printmaking as he inherited. he transformed it. he used older processes and makes pictures that
photographers and everyone else fall in love with. >> rose: roberta smith i think said -- did he -- that he obliterated the line between art and commerce. >> i think you can see it throughout the work, and i think what she was saying, and i think i can understand why that is, he basically understood the page of the magazine. he understood what a power picture would sit in ink in a magazine, and he demanded that it stop traffic. and by doing so, he applied all the training in art to the challenge. i mean, he was basically a vogue photographer for over 60 years. most of his pictures in the show were seen there. yet, he was able to make prints on his own that have other qualities. that's the art. >> rose: the next thing is called fish monger. >> there is one of my favorite photographs. in between portrait sessions and
couture sessions with the most beautiful models of the day, penn had his assistants bring in individuals from the streets, and he photographed them against the same neutral backdrop. here we are in london, it's 1950, and i love this project which is to look at individuals with the tools of their trade. here is the fishmonger with his towel and apron and the catch, and, obviously, those portraits celebrate the everyday experience of the common man. he treated his portrait subjects, fashion subjects and his small trait subjects with equal love and that love and the beauty that comes from the photographic process gives these individuals a life. >> rose: what distinguishes his portraiture is this. >> well, an understanding of the simple pleasure of the interaction between one individual and another. there's no lux environments. all that's there is this sort of
empty studio, the artist and his subject. so there's this exchange. these are -- pen was a small tradesman and his trade was photography and these individuals understood that. the fashion world understood he was giving them his a's tension, that the studio was quiet. unlike other photographers working in his day today, it was practically whisper quiet. individuals felt penn's attention eye to eyes on them never wavered and gave birth to an interesting psychological portrait. it's rembrandtian. >> rose: detrek. dietrich spent her life before the camera. she was an advocate for fighting against naziism. she was a great singer. she sang for the allied troops. she knew what she wanted when
she arrived in penn's studio. penn had to deal with it in one way or the other. she basically said, i though what side i want you to photograph. i know where the light are meant to be and where my body should be and penn had to quiet risay, for this experiment, why continue you be the subject and i'll be the photographer? and she turned around and gave this look -- >> rose: and it worked. and it worked. >> rose: and there's the photograph. >> there's the proof. >> rose:. >> rose: she did the wonderful documentary where they photographed her inside an apartment, the door was open but you never saw her and the interview took place without seeing here. >> crazy. she's a powerful figure. she's popular with today's young people as she's a gender-bending young hero and she has the chance to be one of the more
transformative figures of the mid 20th century now. >> rose: ts is mouth for lawyer yell. >> penn was obviously involved in photographing beauty wherever it was and lauriel is stopping traffic. we live in a multitude of images, and as neil de grasse tyson said, there's a multi-verse and there is likely a multi-verse. that's where we are with photography today. this exhe bigs looks at an artist that comes out of an analog world but is in the digital world. >> rose: what is digital photography doing? >> making people paying attention to shape and form and what is the role of camera in
our society and it changes in every generation and changing now. i think it's creating an appreciation for the old analog world, our world and creating a belief that photography has a role in our society. there's no barriers to entry now. with digital tools and iphone and the cellular world in which we live, the digital world, it's making pictures better. it's making student journalism better. >> rose: and it's just beginning. i met wan entrepreneur yesterday talking to me about how the whole idea of taking content and being able to put it in an iphone for example and what you could do with that. george lucas said to me i can make a movie with an iphone. >> quawlt qualitatively it's amazing but just the idea of
sharing images like we share stories. >> rose: i but you the number of autographs i get asked to do, 2% of the time. >> well, it's kind of an autograph. it's a pictograph. >> rose: but it just took over. >> yeah. >> rose: and it shows you sort of the power of the visual. >> more people are looking at photographs that they have made than ever before. where they're going, i don't know. i'm a little worried about that. we might know less about our time than we knew about the time before digital because people are not saving them or they don't know where they've saved them. >> rose: digital gives you capacity because the cloud is saving them in an interesting way. take a look at these three more then i want to talk more about irving penn. the next one is nude 72. >> one of his favorite artists was matisse. penn came out of the art school where drawing nude form was part of the language. when he was still learning the
field in 1949, '50, tired of live models who all had the same body type, he brought into his studio figures where graverty played a role. this is a good example. where there was a fullness of the figure. artists like fullness. they like to draw -- >> rose: things that are round -- >> that are supple and round. >> rose: right. and penn was very aware of sort of the history of the nude and he taught himself a hot about lighting and form by just practicing in the studio. >> rose: next thing is picasso. i just want to show you these. >> one of the most famous portraits -- >> rose: is that a great photograph. >> picasso, this is photographed in the south of france at picasso's home, and penn liked mostly to work in his own studio, but this is one of the great pictures of all time. >> rose: wow, so great. and penn used the sort of
dark cloak that picasso had to create this void that sort of shows the face and all its intensity. picasso was certainly the most famous artist of the day and the meeting between penn and pi case o i would have liked to have been there for that. >> rose: fly on the wall. yes. >> rose: the next one three acero mudmen, here it is. >> penn had this idea in the '60s and carried it into the '70s to take his project to sort of distant folks and distant places. here we are in new guinea. these are acaro mudmen. penn was great with composition, his ability to pose not just one figure but many is his hallmark of achievement. this is a picture that is stunning. an these figures are posed. penn posed them by hand. he couldn't speak their language. they couldn't speak his language. he didn't say very much. he just literally went and moved
their bodies and turned their forms, and he put the pictures together like he was a painter, like a sculptor, and then he had this great understanding of light. so photography is a light media. >> rose: they all say that. penn always wanted to work with north light. he used available light when possible. and those combination of understanding of composition, the balance of light and gravity and its effect is what defines his work. >> rose: next slide is in fact the great photograph you all foe of truman capote. here it is. >> so we're at the beginning of penn's portrait work. it was a project for "vogue" and alexander lieberman said what can you do with a portrait? we know you can make still life. penn created a weird set by putting two theater flats together into an awe cute corner and eremoved every other
element. so it was penn and hid subject, and capote just published his first stories. he's leaning into the washington on the floor, it's basically threads of carpet. it's not clean, per se, but in this space and in the controlled environment, we have a psychological portrayed that not only stands the test of time but mix you sort of feel like capote was already a master of his own craft and penn, too. >> rose: he drove an ambulance in italy during worl world war . >> yeah, so penn started the wax basically, in -- started the war, basically, in mex coavment he left mexico for pearl harbor and was there to paint for a year. he came back, almost immediately went to war. he like many others rho learned photography found themselves in the signal corps and other fields where the camera could
play a role. that's how penn learned a lot about photography. >> rose: he wanted very much to be seen as an artist. >> and he was. i think anyone in his presence who had the pleasure of meeting him knew he was one of the more thoughtful, more generous of individuals. his dedication to working with his studio assistants and sharing the experience of being an artist is really a distinguishing quality. >> rose: go ahead. no, his pictures are beloved, not just in the fashion world, in the portrait world, in the photography world, but i would say that most people who pay attention to the 20th century in anin any area have found they to penn. they couldn't wait to find those pictures in vogue when they came out. >> rose: he lived into old age. >> yeah, he died in -- he died at 92 in 2009.
pretty much yesterday. >> rose: seems like it. he emerged in the '30s in the depresmghts lived through the isolationist '50s, moved and aced to the age of aquarius and ended up in the digital world. >> rose: he was said to be an astute estate planner. >> he was very careful, and the foundation that now works to promote his work likely was given a great legacy, and, you know, the metropolitan museum where the show is, we have been showing his work since 1959, so he was part of the met's collection very early observe. this is our third major show of his work. he was a student of art. he arrived in new york when moma was showing those great artists who were emerging and escaping the horrors of war in europe, and he learned from the moment that cubism and surrealism moved
into realism and abstract expressionism, he followed those movements and was part of them. >> rose: the cover of the book, the accompanying book to the exhibition at the metropolitan museum of art here, will be so till july 30th. >> that's right. >> rose: jeff, thank you. thank you very much. thank you for having me. >> rose: thank you for joining us. see you next time. for more about this program and earlier episodes, visit us online at pbs.org and charlierose.com. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org