October 4, 2023


Make Some Fun

Artist Interview: Phil Penman – StreetArtNews

9 min read

Matthew Eller: I had absolutely the pleasure spending a raining afternoon strolling round decrease Manhattan, NYC photographing considered one of my favourite photographers Phil Penman.  Philip was additionally sort sufficient to reply a few of my questions on his life, avenue pictures, and his new e-book “New York Street Diaries”.  So Phil, Inform us a quick bit about who you’re, and what you do?


Phil Penman: UK born from a tiny village known as Briantspuddle within the South West. Studied pictures for just a few years earlier than catching a break working within the information business protecting all matter of issues from politicians kissing infants to street visitors accidents. In 1999 I received chatting with a photographer while on a star stake out and he launched me to his ex-bosses who ran a photograph company in Los Angeles. The corporate specialised in information and superstar tales.  A Few weeks later and I discover myself on a airplane to LA. After about 6 months of clocking up visitors tickets engaged on celebs and something the British newspapers might throw at us I moved to NYC. New York Metropolis was all the time the aim ever since I visited in 1994 and fell in love along with her. The graffiti backdrops, and hip hop blaring vehicles have been the draw for me, as I additionally labored as a DJ.  It’s 23 years later and I’m nonetheless right here, however spend my days photographing the streets and attention-grabbing characters which might be its make up.  

Matthew Eller: How lengthy have you ever been a photographer?  

@philpenman @ChrisRWK

Phil Penman: All in all about 31 years now with 28 of them as a working skilled.

Matthew Eller: How did you get your begin?  

@philpenman @tristaneaton

Phil Penman: Like several good artist I blagged myself right into a job. For these which might be unfamiliar with the time period it means to bullshit your method in. My first job was as Chief photographer of an area paper. The artwork of the blag is that you’ve to have the ability to pull it off and truly ship the products which I did. From there it’s nearly placing your head down and dealing your arse off. 

Matthew Eller: How did you grow to be a paparazzi?


Phil Penman: I  type of fell into it due to the drive to dwell in USA. The company I used to be working for made it very clear that’s what paid the payments, and in the event you wished to remain within the nation you had to have the ability to be taught that talent. When folks consider paparazzi they consider folks leaping in entrance of them or flash bulbs on a crimson carpet. This might not be farther from what I used to be doing. Assume extra like a sniper camped out with lens honed in on a brilliant yacht in St Barths and also you get the thought. My job was not simply this although. Most of it was truly doing undercover investigative work. Some paedophile priest who wanted outing, or a sketchy adoption agent promoting the identical infants to a number of {couples} and operating off with the cash. This was the majority of the work however the celebs paid the payments. 

Matthew Eller: Why did you stop?

Phil Penman: As a result of it mentally destroys you. Having the World Commerce Middle come down proper in entrance of me and going by way of the identical superstar dross on a regular basis simply will get to be to a lot. I truly stop and took a job working for a biking firm promoting clothes while additionally carrying on my portrait work and doing avenue pictures at one level. 

Matthew Eller: Did you all the time need to be {a magazine} / press sort of photographer?  Or did you simply fall into it?


Phil Penman: My dad was a press photographer and it was a reasonably superior job again within the day. You bought to journey the world paid for by another person. I received to fulfill folks like Invoice Gates and Christopher Reeve in addition to just about everybody else able of affect of their respective industries. In what different job do you get to do that and get to ask inquiries to the folks that really know?

Matthew Eller: Who would you contemplate to be your 2 largest influences?  They don’t have to be photographers.

Phil Penman: Received to be the photographer Sebastiao Salgado, after which most likely Jackson Pollack or Pier Mondrian.

Matthew Eller: You’re identified on your intense black & white avenue pictures. Has b&w all the time been your weapon of selection?  Why do you appear to want it over coloration?



Phil Penman: When you’ve shot coloration for work for over 30 years you want a unique thoughts set on your private work and black and white was the place I began within the darkroom and the place I’m happiest. It’s not that I don’t like coloration it’s simply that black and white takes me off to a different place the place I’m in my zone.

Matthew Eller: You’re additionally a Leica Digital camera ambassador. How did that relationship come to be?


Phil Penman: Round 2015 I had my first break getting a present at Leica in New York. They shortly reached out about performing some talks and workshops for them and I’ve been touring all over the world doing issues for leica ever since. This yr alone I’ve completed exhibits and workshops in Miami, Melbourne, Sydney, London, Boston and New York. 

Matthew Eller: Finest and worst story as a paparazzi getting a shot of a star?

Phil Penman: Finest must be Madonna on a movie shoot with Man Ritchie. It’s the place all of the arduous work paid off. I had been chasing her round NYC on a bicycle for about 2 weeks. Image Two black escalades with police lights being adopted by 10 bicycles, 5 motorbikes and 10 vehicles. On a regular basis we might exit it was a race. Who can be final one standing ? On this explicit day I managed to be the final one and so they had efficiently misplaced everybody else. We pulled up on a movie set that husband Man was directing. Madonna will get out the automotive with the youngsters and goes over to Man and the youngsters gave him flowers because it was father’s day. I used to be capturing these wonderful footage of Madonna and the household posing by the digital camera with an extended 400mm lens. It felt like a portrait shoot. The hot button is to maintain your distance and never get in the way in which. Half the time celebs have been by no means actually involved in regards to the photographers as a result of you wouldn’t have a lot of a profession with out it. They have been extra involved about us drawing consideration to them so the general public would see and rush them. Many celebs have critical stalker points so numerous my relationships with celebs have been constructed on me being respectful and never making a scene or getting in the way in which.  Stood behind her have been about 20 safety guys who didn’t transfer or confront me, which was unusual. After about an hour they go away the set and a sound man comes over and says “Man she loves you”. I believed it bizarre however she had a mic on and he was listening to every thing. The safety guys stored saying to her, would you like us to cease him from taking footage? She apparently replied “He has been chasing me on a motorbike for 2 weeks he can take no matter he desires”

Now for worst it must be a information job. I had many shitty eventualities however you by no means know what can go flawed. After 9/11 the nation was on excessive alert. A breaking story got here in {that a} ladies in South Carolina had taught a terrorist methods to fly and he had simply tried to take over a airplane in Sweden however was unsuccessful. I needed to soar on a airplane with a reporter and get there. We knocked on her door and she or he screamed to depart her alone. We mentioned we might go. As we began driving down the block and a police automotive comes screaming not far away and stops us. He asks “Can I assist you to?”. We replied “We’re simply misplaced”. We pulled right into a strip mall car parking zone to verify our map and have been instantly swarmed by 5 or extra police vehicles with weapons geared toward us from each angle. After having to attend an hour we have been interviewed by the chief of police. We requested him “What was the large deal” as we have been simply press responding to an enormous information story. He replied “You embarrassed the FBI by attending to her earlier than they did and we have been advised to make an instance of you”.  In my time working as a press photographer I had weapons pulled on me extra instances than I care to recollect. Been inside Attica Jail interviewing serial killers and chasing down murderers in Brazil. The job was by no means boring however not with out it’s hazard. 

@philpenman @obeygiant @glenefriedman @badbrainsofficial

Matthew Eller: Hardest a part of being a avenue photographer and possibly some phrases of knowledge?

Phil Penman: If you’re in it for the cash you’ve the flawed enterprise. That is for the love of pictures and being engrossed within the environment. My favourite a part of the day is stepping into conversations with folks from all walks of life and studying one thing new that I didn’t know a day earlier than. It additionally offers us the chance to seize one thing actual when just about every thing else round us now could be turning into faux (from an image viewpoint). Individuals altering their our bodies for social media or arm chair bandits creating footage with AI . Your complete level of pictures for me was the artwork of it and being on the market with different folks. 

@philpenman @lifeafterdeathstreet @freehumanity

Phrases of knowledge? I must say , go in opposition to the grain. If anybody ever tells you Road Images is that this and must be completed utilizing this lens and so on., go do precisely the other of what they are saying. These folks have made it really easy for us to face out by making an attempt to impose guidelines on every thing. How are you going to make your work standout in case you are following guidelines?

Matthew Eller: You have got made NYC your property for 25 years. Is it New York Metropolis or nothing?

@philpenman @mr.cloudy.is.right here

Phil Penman: Just about. You understand the common time somebody lives in New York is 2 years. Both couldn’t hack it, or couldn’t afford it. It’s considered one of these nice cities the place the very best of the very best try to be right here and make a reputation for themselves. I really like different cities to go to however it’s once you come again that you simply understand how bloody good we have now it. 

Matthew Eller: Inform me about your new e-book “New York Road Diaries”. How is that this completely different than your different books?  What can folks anticipate?

@philpenman #nekst

Phil Penman: That is gritty depiction of NYC throughout Covid lockdown and the good people who make it. It’s devoted to the streets of NYC. 

Matthew Eller: Bonus query – funniest or attention-grabbing story about one of many captures in your new e-book?  Which image particularly has a narrative which might blow our minds?



Phil Penman: It all the time must be folks for me as they curiosity me essentially the most. A man with a hat with the phrases “Dope as fuck ” on it and a masks with USA flag on it rides by me. I ask if I can do his portrait as a result of I really like the masks and he has nice character. Inside 10 minutes he’s making an attempt to promote me a bag of weed. I simply laughed and wished him properly along with his enterprise enterprise.

@philpenman portrait by @elleresqphoto on the #elleresqphotowall positioned at #N5thandBerry in #Williamsburgbrooklyn #NYC

All Photograph’s & Textual content Copyright 2023 Matthew A. Eller.  Comply with me on Instagram @elleresqphoto. #elleresqphoto #elleresqphotowall

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