In his photo-biography book Lifework published in 1983, Long term Vogue photographer Norman Parkinson thus wrote about his wife Wenda Parkinson: “Rembrandt had his Saskia; Romney had Emma Hamilton; Goya had the Duchess of Alba; Dante Gabriel Rossetti had Lizzie Siddal… Picasso had Fernande, Françoise, Jacqueline.” Perhaps he should add: Irving Penn had his Lisa Fonssagrives. Because the story of Wenda Parkinson and Norman Parkinson, a long lasting story of love and creativity is almost parallel and identical to the story of Irving Penn and his wife and long time muse Lisa Fonssagrives.
Like Lisa Fonssagrives, Wenda Rogerson, was also born in may, and just one day apart from Lisa; Like Lisa who met her future husband in a phot shoot, Wenda, then an theater actress doubling as a model occasionaly, met her future husband in a photo shoot in the late 40s, where her beauty touched him deeply; Again like Lisa, Wenda married her photographer a few years later in the early 50s, and thus began another loving collaboration between a photographer and a model.
Wenda first worked with Clifford Coffin at Vogue, the genius photographer with self destructive tendency. Then she met Norman Parkinson, and she became his wife and muse.
But Wenda was not just another supermodel of her era, she was also a writer. Besides some travel essaies she did for Vogue, she had published a biography of Toussaint L’Ouverture the Haitian slave-turned-revolutionary, entitled This Gilded African in 1978.
Wenda Parkinson died in 1987, leaving her husband mourning. Once again, Wenda shared the shocking similarity with Lisa, who died in 1992, leaving her husband Irving Penn mourning for his great loss.
But like Lisa Fonssagrives, Wenda Parkinson would never die, her husband had made her immortal for us, for history. Like Norman Parkinson himself said, Wenda's beauty was "frozen, permanent - it does not age.", not even today, 36 years after her death, and 100 years after her birth.