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Phil Penman

WhiteWall Ambassador Profile

  • SPECIALTIES: Street and black and white photography

  • COUNTRY: USA

Born in England, the photographer Phil Penman 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. From a photographic point of view, the city always offers him new perspectives and new technical challenges for his great passion: black and white photography. Phil will provide many exciting insights into his daily professional life and his work with WhiteWall products.

3 MINUTES WITH PHIL PENMAN

PHIL PENMAN - A house in a reflection in Trondheim, Norway

How did you start your career as a photographer?

Photography was my back up subject at school!  Originally I wanted to be a sport’s teacher but being Dyslexic I always struggled with the academic work. It actually was a major positive for photography. The career path was made clear ! My dad is also a photographer and my parents always took me to museums and galleries from an early age. I started in the darkroom aged 15 under the guidance of my father learning to develop and print my own work often on all night printing sessions. I then did my HND Diploma in photography at the Berkshire College of Art and Design in the United Kingdom. After having assisted for a short time in London I realized that I needed to just try to make it on my own. My first job was as a photographer for a local newspaper which then led to doing corporate work for Microsoft and working for the national newspapers at the age of 22. My goal from an early age was always to be a working photographer based in New York City after having fallen in love with the city as a teenager. In 2000 I was on a job sat in a car with a photographer I just met and told him of my dream. It turned out that he had just come back from working in the USA. He introduced me to his former bosses and a few weeks later I was on a plane to Los Angeles to start my new position photographing the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Six months later I was opening there New York office and the rest is history. I’ve now been a working photographer in New York for 22 years.

DUNJA KREFFT - Phil Penman photographing in Trondheim

What are your sources of inspiration for your picture ideas?

I’m very much drawn to times past. Those beautiful timeless images from the early to mid 1900’s. Alfred Stieglitz , Gordon Parks , Ruth Orkin and many others.

Which camera do you use?

I primarily use Leica M cameras and lenses. My favorite being the Leica Monochrom that only captures life in black and white. I try to use the weather as a way of taking me back in time by capturing old buildings and scenes in the snow. The snow has a magical quality of covering up most of the things like billboards etc that make it more contemporary. I’m also into telling the stories of people I meet on the street, through portraiture. I’ve found street photography can at times be very lonely and its that quick conversation on the street that keeps me upbeat and motivated.

PHIL PENMAN - Under the FDR drive, New York, 2014

Many of your pictures in black and white. What is special for you about black and white photography?

It lends itself perfectly to the timeless images I want to capture. Using the Leica Monochrom with an electronic viewfinder also allows you to view the world in black and white whilst photographing scenes. This lends to a much more enjoyable experience taking the images. 

Where can you be found when you are not behind a camera?

In Bed! I don’t think there are too many moments now when I don’t have a camera with me. Because of my traveling, teaching workshops I find myself on a crazy sleep pattern. If its not walking by the Victory column in Berlin at 4am then its walking by the Colosseum at 2am. I find myself getting back to the hotel asking “Why am I so tired ? And then seeing I’ve done 45k steps. Simply put I am always with a camera these days.

PHIL PENMAN - A street scene in New York

Why WhiteWall?

I discovered Whitewall at Paris Photo and was amazed by the quality of the work and scale that you could print up to with the Master print. Earlier this year Whitewall printed my latest exhibition at the Leica Store in Washington DC and all anyone was talking about was the prints. From ordering to the prints arriving the process was flawless. Normally I’d be freaking out the prints will be ready on time and that they arrive in one piece.

Product Recommendation: LightJet Print On Ilford Baryta Paper & Fine Art Print

For me its got to be the blacks and the archival quality of the Baryta paper. I have done many of these prints for clients wanting limited editions for there walls and it always gives me a buzz seeing the print! Always so much more gratifying seeing the work in person than on a digital screen.

Discover more product recommendations from Phil Penman

Fine Art Prints
  • Giclée print on authentic art paper from Hahnemühle & Canson

  • 8 fine art papers to choose from

LightJet Print On Ilford Baryta Paper
  • The most durable photo paper

  • Baryta texture with a silky shimmer

Close up of reflecting mountain lake as an original photo print under acrylic glass.
Original Photo Print Under Acrylic Glass
  • Our gallery-quality bestseller

  • Your choice of photo prints under 2, 4 or 6 mm of acrylic glass