| email: joe@joeglantz.com
© 2016 Joseph Glantz. All rights reserved.

There are a lot of elements in taking a photograph – light, composition, motion, focus, shadow, contrast, etc. How many elements do you factor into a photograph? Which are the toughest - especially when you’re shooting in black and white?

For me it begins and ends with something worth photographing, something I want to remember. I do look for contrast and light and shadow; I'm drawn to it, I usually don't worry if the subject is out of focus or level.

How does photography differ from a painting? How is it the same?

Some would say photography is truth while painting isn't. To me it's two mediums in which someone is trying to depict how they see the world. One does it with their hands while the other does it with his eyes.

Violinists spend a lifetime trying to acquire the best violin they can. Is the same thought true for photographer’s and their cameras? What’s your favorite old camera that you still keep? What cameras do you currently use and why do you like them? 

Many photographers try to buy the best equipment they can afford and usually the name you'll hear over and over is Leica. I found that compact point and shot cameras are the best tool for my photography. You go unnoticed, they're quiet and you can usually get shots you wouldn't be able to if you were using a larger camera. I try not to get attached to any one camera but I'm a huge fan of the Ricoh Gr series that started back when they were film cameras. Also I recently picked up the new Sony RX100.

NEW YORK PROJECT (33, 59, 72)

Can you relate the various Philadelphia projects – Ben Franklin, Under Philadelphia, Philadelphia CityScape, Philadelphia Street and the Philadelphia Project? 

Really, the only relation is that I live in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia is known for being a city of neighborhoods. Do you consciously visit different neighborhoods – South Philly, West Philly, etc? Are there noticeable differences from one neighborhood to the next? 

For the most part I stay in the center city area. Since I consider myself more of a street photographer now I tend to stay where there are signs of life.

Philadelphia’s skyline has been changing? There are now buildings taller than William Penn’s hat. How does the changing skyline impact your shots? 

It hasn't really changed fast enough to impact me. Change is always good for photography, it means there is some new to photograph.



What’s the contrast between the people in night photographs versus day photographs? What do you learn about the city at night – without the people in it?

I prefer the night to day but I'll photograph in both. To me a city comes to life after dark. The senses are heightened and you feel more alive, the sounds, smells and shadows are all amplified. The workers went home, the tourists are back at their hotel so you're left with the city at its core. Add rain to it and it's perfect for me.

Describe a typical night of shooting photographs?

I try to leave just as the street lights are turning on and usually I don't carry much more than my compact camera and a few extra batteries. As I head out I just wander and if I see something around a corner I turn. I walk for around 3 hours and cover about 8 miles at before heading home. My method is not to have a method when I'm out shooting.



MICHAEL PENN is a Philadelphia photographer. His photographs, primarily in black and white, attempt to capture the reality and dreams of the city.

For the past three years you've been working on a project you call the Philadelphia Project. Can you explain that project?

Michael Penn: The Philadelphia Project was an idea I came up with when I decided I wanted to be more of a street photographer than an urban landscape photographer. I wanted an ambitious project that required a lot of photographs where I had to shoot every day with a good overall look at life in center city Philadelphia. I have a nervous type of energy and I don't like to keep still for long so a project like this keeps me very busy. In the process I've learned a little about the city but I've learned more about myself and photography. When I set out I thought I could just walk around and take photographs, it didn't seem that hard. As word got out I started selling some of the photographs, I've given many interviews and people do want to use the photographs for magazines, books, exhibitions, etc. It's great and I'm very appreciative but it does take away from me being out on the street. The project when complete at the end of July 2013 will consist of 1000 photographs taken over a three year period. As I've just passed photograph 700 it's getting harder to capture things I haven't already seen, it's a challenge and it drives me to try harder.  I'm hoping it eventually turns into a major exhibition and one or more books. 
How did you become interested in photography?

From childhood I was always interested in photography. My father loved photography and I learned the basics from him when I was in my early teens. Until my mid 30s I picked up a camera several times but quickly lost focus do to work, relationships or other interests. When I was about 35 I decided I wanted to do something that I wanted to do so I bought a Nikon D70 and started taking photos of the Ben Franklin Bridge, the subway tunnels and cityscapes. After a few months I wanted to see what a few of them looked liked printed but since I didn't own a printer I took them to a business in my area that specialized in printing photography. After seeing them the owner offered me a show in his gallery and it turned out to be a big success. At the time I still wasn't sure what a good photograph was and I wasn't that confident in my work but when the doors opened and the photographs started to sell it gave me the confidence that I needed to continue.



Your Benjamin Franklin Bridge project has around 40 images? Can you talk about the project – how long did it take you to create it; are you still hoping to do more on it; what’s the fascination with the bridge? 

This was my first project and I was so happy to see it published in LensWork magazine. I worked on it for about three years and I would say it's complete or as complete as it's going to get because of post 911 security concerns. I live a couple hundred feet from the bridge and it was such fun to photograph it every day. As a child, while driving over the bridge (from New Jersey) in the family car it would bring me such great joy to stare out the window at it. The great size and design of the structure would put a smile on my face.

Can you discuss digital vs non-digital photography as it relates to your work?

To me, photography is about the image and not how it's captured or printed. There are still too many "old school" photographers who try to argue film over digital but in the end it doesn't matter. The image is everything.

Who are some of your favorite photographers? Do you consciously try to incorporate some of the features of other photographers into your work or do you try to create your own style. Since, I’m anticipating the latter – what’s the Michael Penn style? 

I can get inspiration from many different types of photography but I'm drawn to high contrast, gritty, grainy, dark images. I understand them, I relate to them. As for favorite famous photographers….. Daido Moriyama, W Eugene Smith and William Klein to name a few. I like non-academic photographers who aren't afraid to express themselves in their work.

Would you consider yourself a modernist, anti-modernist, traditionalist, something else? 

I think I'm somewhere between Traditionalist and Neo-Expressionist. What I mean by that is I see and photograph a scene and then inject part of me into the photograph, my emotion, how I think I saw it.

Your current projects are Philadelphia and New York. What’s the difference between taking pictures in each city?

New York City or Manhattan is quite a bit bigger than the center city area of Philadelphia. It moves faster and there's always something going on especially at night. Someone once compared photographing in Philadelphia to decaf coffee and Manhattan as a quadruple espresso shot. To me Philadelphia is a lot quieter than New York and it offers me the chance to think a little more before snapping the shot and I think it works out well. In Manhattan you have to use more instinct so you end up with more chaotic photographs which is a perfect match for that city.
Credits - All photographs copyright (c) 2016 Michael Penn