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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

What I'm Reading

 I haven't posted in the last four days because I've spent that time trying to get myself out of this funk. So far no luck. In the meantime I picked up a couple of books to read and I'm waiting on my $18 camera to arrive tomorrow and thinking about the statement that I want to make with it. I’m thinking of creating just one big visual diary, think the Philadelphia Project but MUCH larger. No set location, no set subject, just what I see on a daily basis. I’m sure it will confuse a lot of people but I don’t take photos for other people.

Friday, July 19, 2019

At War With Myself

Over the last couple of days I've been feeling very uneasy about my recent path in photography.

I start, stop, start, and stop again. I'm beginning to believe that my current color photography is nothing more than a subconscious attempt at mainstream photography. Speaking academically, the photos good and safe, but they're just not me and I don't think I'm ready for that late life type of photography that plagues so many photographers.

I've always been a dark gritty photographer and painter, I don't think that's going to change. I'm sitting in a coffee shop right writing this on my notepad. Feeling discouraged, uninspired, and angry that I tried to sucker myself.

As someone who has a reputation of being so observant how did I not see this coming?

Maybe my attitude towards the current climate of the world of photography clouded my mind on what I was doing. Sometimes the ego of an artist no matter how small can do a world of damage to their own work. You can have mediocre success and then you begin to dream big, then the art world kicks you around and you begin to dream a little smaller.

This is why so many artists live a reclusive life, something I endorse. So where do I go from here? This is something I ask myself a dozen times a day. I've been conflicted on how to continue in a now sterile environment (includes center city) while trying to take gritty photos. Even seeing in the same manner as I have for decades I'm notting clearly seeing enough to press the shutter button.

I'm not convinced this is something I can overcome anytime soon. All photos lie to some degree but to use my method today seems like one huge lie which makes me feel uncomfortable. This confusion is preventing me from taking the type of photography I care so much about, if that's even possible anymore.

I have tried to experiment with my main camera which is a Fuji X100F which I purchased primarily for color photography but it takes entirely to long in Lightroom to get the photos somewhat close to what I'm looking for but it's still not primitive in nature like the original Ricoh GRD. In the end it feels like I'm faking my own photos. There is a chance that I might stumble onto a method that will satisfy me, but it does feel like a whole lot of wasted time.

The original Ricoh GRD is becoming quite rare due to it now being 14 years old and those looking to profit from its cult following which has dwindled over the years.

Another problem is that you can't just own one with just about all of them reaching the end of their life cycle. At anytime they can break so you need at least one back up. For years I've been trying to find a more affordable and abundant alternative but I have yet to find one. Remember I'm not into a lot of megapixels and super high ISO.

In conclusion, my brain is a little scrambled and writing this is a way for me to get it out of my head and attempt to organize it so I can work out a solution.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

4 Megapixels

I always have several photography ideas floating around my head and I figure, if I'm still thinking about one after a year or two, they just might be worth doing. 

I've never hid my disdain for camera manufacturers who have turned cameras into a jack of all trades but master of none with ridiculous megapixels, ISO numbers, 5 way stabilization, 4k video, WiFi, Bluetooth, and whatever other bells and whistles they can cram into it.

I just looked at photos taken with the recent Nikon Z6 at ISO 36,000 that looked like ISO 800 about a decade ago.

The only camera company I'll give some leeway to is Leica because they still try to make cameras for photographers first with maybe the exception of the latest 42 megapixel Q2 camera but for us mere mortals of meager means I'll leave them out of this.

None of this wouldn't be a problem if it wasn't for the gear heads or those with insecurity issues who need to be seen with the latest gear or feel that the latest super camera will make them a better photographer. Well enough of the rant and on to my project idea.

I want to create a body of work that was taken with a low resolution 4 or 5 megapixel sensor camera in jpeg that has a max iso of 400/800ish. Shot in black and white during the day and night I want this to be a big F.U. to the manufacturers, the gear junkies, and the internet fauxtographers. I've been gathering information on cameras such as the Olympus C4040, Panasonic LC1, Canon G3, and some others.

**UPDATE: Ok, screw the Panasonic LC1. I just seen what people are asking for them**

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Only One Copy Remains

An oversized zine at 7"x10", 60 pages featuring 39 full bleed black and white photos, signed. Already in the library collection of several museums.

BUY: Lonely New York Zine HERE

Tuesday, July 16, 2019


There seems to be more people as of late making the same complaints as I about the current state of photography. While it's nice to see other photographers waking up instead of employing the old mantra "If you can't beat them, join them," it's going to take more photographers, more collectors, more critics and more curators to voice their concerns.

The curators, as a whole, seem to have one of two methods when dealing with this. The first being; to ignore the problem and it will go away, eventually. The second is to play right into grasp by hosting exhibitions based on the hot social topic of the day, politically charged genres, etc, etc. The more controversial the better with hopes of "trending" which might translate into more ticket sales.

The art itself means very little anymore, it's the statement, the message, or whatever else they can dream up to put asses in the seats. If they're not careful their actions, which have already damaged photography, will also eliminate their own jobs; replaced by a PR person.

We have more being aware of the problem, so what's the next step? Do we write articles? Do we cancel our museum memberships until they get their act together? Do we delete our Instagram and Facebook accounts(yes you should!). How is credibility restored?

Please comment below.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Rush to Sameness

 I've spoken before how just about all of street photography has become a cliche. People seeing someone's photo on social media and then they try to take a similar photo to ride that train of "likes". The same seems to be happening with just about every other genre of photography too. Search the internet for an interesting building and there can be dozens if not hundreds of photos that all look the same of the same place, and I'm not talking about famous buildings either. So how do you stand out in this sea of shit that was formerly known as photography? How do you make a scene or building your own? Granted through out the history of photography there have copy cats.  Bresson's "Man Jumping Over Puddle" and Ansel Adams "Monolith, the Face of Half Dome" are perfect example of this. Now imagine if countless people copied every photo they've ever taken. Would they have still become icons of photography or would they have been lost in an endless pool of sameness?


Saturday, July 13, 2019

Finding Friends

 Now that I'm back on Flickr I've been searching for other photographers that weren't that active on social media and that I very rarely run into anymore, especially since I've moved. While I've found on a few so far I did manage to find on person who I've always liked, a person with a personality as witty as his photography. That photographer is Ted Adams. Ted has a very unique personality and to say that he's interesting to talk to is an understatement. Ted was a staff photographer for the Philadelphia Inquirer until they almost eliminated the entire department. I'm glad to see he's still out there taking photos.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Missing the Train

 Ever since I quit Instagram and more accurately Facebook 19 months ago I get a lot of emails and messages asking how hard was it to quit. People were talking to me like it was an addiction and I guess in a way it is for most people. Even in the beginning I wasn't a fan of it and could smell the false sense of importance, but that's just me. I never had a MySpace account, at some point I started a Twitter account but never understood the point because it felt like you were talking to yourself, I had a Google plus account for a couple of months and prefered it to any other platform out there, and the platform with the most promise for artists was Ello. In the end all of these will fail and they should because it's sickening that everyone has to tun their so called life as a "brand". Wake Up People The Matrix Has You...  Some of the messages I receive ask me if it's too late to begin a popular Instagram account and my answer back is a FUCK YES, and that goes for any of the platforms right now. Well you can cheat and buy thousands of followers, likes, and comments, but what does that accomplish besides lying to yourself. So now I have a question for those who have quit some or all of social media, especially other artists. What are you doing to get your art seen ? I know Natasha posts this on the Michael Penn Photography facebook page that she manages but I would prefer you answered me on my blog.


Thursday, July 11, 2019


 I've only been on Flickr for a couple of days and I've made some observations. First, I'm not seeing the big return to the platform as stated in the half dozen articles I've read. Were those articles just hype with the hope it would catch on or am I just not seeing it? Second, I know it's been a decade since I've been on Flickr but I remember a lot more in the way of comments, now the hit and run practice of clicking the like button and quickly moving on rules the roost much like on Instagram. Third, Groups were the best way to have you photos seen by the masses outside of Explorer but all most all of the groups have been abandoned. Ok, now for a few positives. The first thing you notice is how great the photos look without Instagram's image compression . Also the ability to have organized albums is great. On Instagram rarely does anyone go back more than a few photos into someones feed but on Flickr they will look at a whole reasonably sized album. This has been an interesting experiment so far and only time will tell if I stick with it, and there are those who predict I'll go back to Instagram, I say don't hold your breath.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019


  I'm currently putting together portfolio books of all my projects from over the last 15 years. I've switched from print archives in boxes to this method for the much smaller space it consumes and the much friendlier viewing experience. Try to show people bare prints and they put on white cotton gloves and are usually so worried about handling the print they lose the experience of viewing a physical print. I'm trying to assemble these at as low of a cost as I can and I'm in constant need of paper and ink. A local art supply store has been working with me on the books. So what I'm looking for is few hundred sheets on 8.5x11 Epson Premium Luster Paper or something comparable and ink for an Epson P800 printer. If anyone has either of these items and are no longer in need of them please email me with a description and price. Thank you.


Tuesday, July 9, 2019


You mention the name Flickr to me and I cringe. That place was the largest source of my photos being stolen and the place got even worse after it was purchased by Verizon and the Yahoo. To be honest though it was a much better place to view photos without the mess of today's social media. Also I sold more prints to people coming from Flickr than I ever did on facebook or Instagram, and not ridiculously cheap $50 prints. Recently the photography group SmugMug purchased Flickr with the hope of creating a platform for real photographers and for the people who like photography. Doing everything in their power to fend off the current Instacrap scammers, bots, influencers, and fauxtographers. One of the ways there are doing this is by charging a small yearly fee for a "Pro" account. The $50 yearly fee gives you an ad free experience, unlimited uploading and backup storage, also a bunch of other discounts on everything from Adobe products to services. Over the weekend several photographers told me they returned to Flickr after deleting their facebook and Instagram accounts. To tell you truth I was a little shocked ! Can Flickr survive in today's iZombie social media age? I think it can if enough real photographers return to the platform and realize that those massive "follow" numbers on Instagram don't mean a damn thing. After all I would rather have 100 truly interested people on Flickr than 10,000 fake followers on Instacrap. Will I return to the platform? I do think I'm going to run a little experiment and see what happens. Post a few photos, poke my head into a couple of groups, and search for some photos. We'll see what happens.

Michael Penn Flickr

Monday, July 8, 2019

What is Safe ?

  I spend much of my time think of where and what I want photograph. When sharing my ideas I'm usually asked several times about safety. It's nothing new and when I was working on my Philadelphia Project that was mostly photographed at night I was asked about the city not being safe at night. When I was working in the subway that question continued and became more frequent when I was in New York City at night taking photographs for Lonely New York. To this point I never felt not safe but my level of being on guard his risen in some occasions. Over the last two weeks I've ventured into parts of North Philly that are very much riddled with burned out factories, abandoned houses, vacant lots, a great deal of people living in poverty, and other forms of urban blight. In the late 20th century people would have just said "ghetto" but I'm not sure that's politically correct anymore. I would have to say that my on guard meter is on it's highest setting in this area and you can feel the tension in the air. The few people that I've run into weren't exactly welcoming and you could see the anger on their faces. Maybe it's just a front they constantly have to put on to feel safe themselves in such a dangerous area but I can almost see what they're thinking in little word bubbles above their heads. Being the only white person in an almost all black area can lead the residents to think am I there to buy drugs? Am I a cop? Do I work for another city agency? Am I a developer looking to snatch up property and gentrify the area? Or am I a tourist who got really lost? After all I do have a camera around my neck. I guess in the end I'll continue until I feel all hell is about break loose.
   I took this photo of a coffin today on a street where several people were shot and killed this weekend.

What I'm Reading

 I haven't posted in the last four days because I've spent that time trying to get myself out of this funk. So far no luck. In the m...