Photographer and Self-Publisher Michael Penn on The Philadelphia Project

David J. Carol


Michael, there is prolific and then there is insane! You shoot a lot everyday. Tell me about your daily shooting routine.
"A lot" is a good description, but I always feel like I could shoot more. I get this nervous energy right before I head out, especially when I shoot at night, that explodes into a mix or excitement and serenity. After several hours of wandering around the city, I head home to look over what I've taken. Then I process, edit, organize, then maybe post a photo or two on Facebook. I usually average 10 hours a day on my photography.

I love the idea of this book series. How did you come up with it?

I wanted a way to publish all 1000 photos from my "Philadelphia Project," but was blown away at the cost of producing a coffee table book that was so large. After some research, I started to look into alternative processes for publishing.

I noticed a lot of Japanese photographers have used everything from Xerox machine printed books and zines to the silkscreen process. I settled on using Xerox digital printer/copiers after a local printer made me a book proof. I was stunned that something so cheap could come out so good.

After the printing process was established, I decided on a series of 40 books with 25 photos in each. Every month, a new book limited to 50 copies is released. To date, every copy has sold.

Another goal with this project is to give people something that is a little more personal, unique and collectible. As of this week, the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) will be adding the books to its library.

I know you have been influenced by some Japanese photographers. Whose work do you like and who are your biggest influences?

Without a doubt Daido Moriyama and Takuma Nakahira. Those "Provoke"-era photographers took photography to a whole other level. They said the hell with the academic and injected their soul into their photography. A lot of photographers claim to have a "no rules" approach, but these two have 50+ years of "no rules" photography to their credit.

I have also been influenced by two American photographers, William Klein and W. Eugene Smith. I would love to have been able to get into Eugene's Smith mind. The man was a true master of photography with an incredible work ethic.

You can have dinner with any four people and you decide the entire menu. Who and what?

Jean Michel Basquiat, Jack Kerouac, Eugene Smith and my father. Dinner would consist of very spicy Thai food and Japanese whiskey.

I'll give you the last word. What would you like to tell people about yourself that we haven't covered?

I'm a very approachable person. There are too many artists with massive egos and an unwillingness to help out or even discuss photography with other photographers that they feel are beneath them. I refuse to be that way.

Michael, thanks so much for your time, and good luck with the book project. You can find out more about Michael Penn and his book series by going to www.michaelpennphotography.com.



PDN August 2016: The Fine-Art Photography Issue



Tout VTS


Tout VTS


Contact PDN | About Photo District News | Camera Reviews and Gear Guide | Photography Blog | Photo News | Photo Magazine- Print Subscription |
Photography RSS Resources | Free Photography Newsletter | Photo Magazine Advertising | Photographer Features & Resources | Stock Photographs
© 2016 Emerald Expositions, LLC. All rights reserved. Read our TERMS OF USE and PRIVACY POLICY