Phil Penman’s ability to capture the essence of life in the urban landscape has earned him acclaim and admiration from photography institutions and enthusiasts around the globe. We caught up with Phil to learn more about his photographic process and hear about his latest Leica Akademie workshop in March 2024.
How do you approach composition and framing in your photographs?
It varies. At this point in my career much of it is muscle memory after 30 years of learning. Most street photography is predicting an event and setting yourself up for it rather than reacting to it. Then there are of course those moments when I could spend an hour in one given spot basically trying everything and anything. This is when you learn, so your muscle memory improves.
Are there any challenges you enjoy overcoming when you’re out shooting street photography?
“Embrace the difficulty” is a fabulous quote I heard from Michael Caine recently. Never has it been so true. I used to hate the rain, especially growing up in Dorset. Now I cannot wait for the rain to come so I can capture some timeless shots in the elements. I learned this a few years back while photographing in the snow and realised the best pictures were when it was so intense, I could barely see. You try to make the viewer feel like they are there with you.
Which Leica Camera and lens is your go-to and why?
My go-to is the Leica M11 Monochrom. I primarily photograph in black-and-white so it’s a no-brainer. Rendering the colour files is just not the same. For the intense weather, I defer to the SL2 because of the weather sealing.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start shooting street photography?
It’s less about the photography and more about who you will meet and what you will see. This little camera we hold is a gateway to another life. Capturing the images is a bonus. Just go out there and enjoy it and usually the results come. Don’t be afraid to fail, this is when you learn!
What aspect of your upcoming Leica Akademie Advanced Street Photography Masterclass are you looking forward to the most?
It’s an unveiling into the life of a working photographer. You get to learn how I see the world, but then I also get to meet so many great people in every course I do. I have since done multiple trips around the world together with the people I have met. You will also get to see behind the scenes of how I work, the editing, and then how I collaborate with a curator and publish a book. I then walk people through exactly the work it takes to make it in this industry and my goal is to take the attendee’s work to the next level.