The British-born photographer has lived in the U.S. for some time and is particularly known for his black-and-white "street photography." Penman's work is exhibited all over the world and he has won several awards. Phil focuses on street, portrait or architectural photography primarily from New York.
Penman's distinctive style, versatility and dedication to his craft have earned him prestigious awards and exhibitions, as well as being named one of the "52 Most Influential Street Photographers" alongside industry legends such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Sebastião Salgado.
As part of the current winter campaign he produced with WhiteWall in Trondheim, Norway, we were able to ask him a few choice questions about his work:
"You don’t go out at 4 am in the morning to come home and do a crap print" - Phil Penman
Photo: Phil Penman - The Bakke Bridge over the Nivelda River in Trondheim in the morning mist.
You've been a photographer for around 30 Years. What role does photography play in your life?
It’s kind of it’s always been my life. I started when I was like 15 years old and I pretty much known nothing else since then. It’s taking me all around the world to places I’ve never would have seen before and it’s kind of become a part of me. You know my wife always kind of jokes about why I’m working all the time and but if you truly enjoy what you do it’s not really work. I go out, no matter what time of the day, shooting. It just becomes part of you. So, I wouldn’t know life without it.
Your photographs draw the viewer into the action, what has shaped your approach to photography?
I’ve always tried to not follow the crowd and see what everyone else is doing. I learned when I was a press photographer if everyone’s over there you go over here. So I’ve always tried to just stay away from what the trend is and just follow my own path and I believe if you really enjoy what you’re doing it’s going to come out in your work and people going to feel that same attachement to the work and it doesn’t matter what it is. It’s going to resonate with them.
We are here in Trondheim, Norway for this shoot, what drove you to come here all the way from New York?
I really wanted to create something very atmospheric. I love a lot of my work is really driven by the weather anyway. So if it’s snowing or raining I make sure I’m out and I’ve always found that my best photography has come from being in the elements. And you know, where to better come than here?
What role does the print play in the process of photography?
For me a photography is not complete until I see the final image printed. That is the quintessential beauty of photography. The reward of all work and hard times getting up early in the morning. It’s worth it when you see the final print on the wall. And for my prints I want the best I can get because it’s the same what I use for my cameras. You know, you don’t go out at 4 am in the morning to come home and do a crap print. I want the best and WhiteWall gives me that.
Photo: Phil Penman - An atmospheric street scene in Trondheim
What tip would you give to someone photographing who wants to print their photo.
When I take pictures, I always have the finished art or the finished print in mind. So when I look at a shadow in a scene I already know what I’m going to with it. It’s kind of like painting with light. I always tend to shoot a little bit darker and then I am dodging certain areas and bringing out the light in others.
Phil Penman - Professional Photographer & WhiteWall Ambassador
The long-standing Ambassador program continues to evolve and Phil Penman joins the WhiteWall team as another great in photography.
"I first discovered WhiteWall at Paris Photo 2021 and was amazed at the quality of their products. In early 2022, WhiteWall produced my exhibit at the Leica Store in Washington DC, and all anyone talked about were the prints. From the time the order was placed until the prints arrived, the process was seamless."