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Phil Penmen Reflects on the Insane Money made in Press Photography


Phil Penman is a world-renowned street photographer based in New York. Follow his Instagram or regularly visit his website. You’ll see him touring different parts of the world, dropping his street photography knowledge to the people who attend his workshops. On this week’s episode of Inside The Photographer’s Mind, Penman joins us to share even more knowledge and take us through the journey of his photography career.

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Meeting Phil Penman

The time was 7 AM in New York. A cold morning, typical for this time of year. Most mortals arrange a podcast interview from 11 AM onwards, but not Phil Penman. As the rest of New York wakes up, fumbling around until they get their first hit of caffeine, Penman is already well into his day. He is no stranger to getting up at 4 AM. He likes to get out onto the streets before the hustle and bustle commences. “I don’t like people,” he says, with a slight smirk on his face. It’s hard to ignore the irony, considering Penman is a street photographer, a genre that’s famed for its interaction with society.

However, that’s not precisely Phil Penman’s style. While some street photographers like to get in nice and close, looking straight into the eyes of the subject, he prefers to observe from afar. His methodical approach to street photography has allowed him to create his signature style– clearly, it’s paying off getting up at the crack of dawn.

Phil Penman on His Photography Journey

“Some days, you’d come back $30,000 richer.” That’s not a statement you hear much nowadays, at least not in the photo industry. However, back in the early 2000s, Phil Penman was working as a freelance paparazzi. Depending on how well you did, you could make a very good living and generate a good amount of money for your agencies. “I think one year I generated $600,000,” says Penman. He adds, “…I only got a small chunk of that.”

From Brittany Spears to Michael Jackson, Phil Penman is no stranger to A-List celebrities. But as rock and roll as that life may sound, I sense that he prefers his far more chilled-out lifestyle. Bouncing through hotels, racing to get the shot before anyone else, and living off more caffeine than one person needs may be a thrill, but it’s tiring. That said, even with the slowed-down style of photography that he enjoys today, Penman still manages to have those thrilling moments in life.

To fully grasp what life was like as a freelance paparazzi, listen to the full episode via the audio player or the video player above.

On Marketing

July 15th, 2020 : Picture taken of John Milonas aged 58 originally from Morris County and used to work at “Three Brothers restaurant in Dover, New Jersey. Now he lives homeless in New York, USA. Picture by Phil Penman WWW.PHILPENMAN.COM

When it comes to photographers getting their message out there, Penman is one of the hardest-working people I know. Whether he’s out shooting each day, interacting with his Instagram followers, or pushing out his newsletters, he’s always doing something to maintain or build his brand. For him, the most important element of his marking is his website. He explains that he can have full control and ensure that people see the new work he produces. His advice is to build a mailing list and keep people updated with what you’re doing. He isn’t sending emails out every day, maybe every other week. However, he’s generated more success from that than spending hours on end inside the Instagram app.

Enjoy The Show

We think you’ll love this episode of Inside The Photographer’s Mind. Phil Penman has quite the story to tell, and his lived experience will grip your attention. If you enjoy the podcast, please do subscribe. We’re on YouTube, Apple, Spotify, and Google. You’ll never find a reason to miss a show. Thanks for reading and listening.

You can learn more about Phil Penman by visiting his website.

All images supplied by Phil Penman. Used with permission.


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