Phil Penman, a British-born photographer based in New York, is a former winner of the Leica Fotograﬁe international Picture Prize. His book Street was published by Glitterati Editions in August 2019. (August 2019)
An eerie silence has descended New York City. Taxis drive by one after the other, lights on, searching for a rare customer. It’s so foreign to walk out onto the street and see no people. The masses of people trying to get to work, heads buried in their cellphones, are gone. Grand Central Station is a ghost town. It’s like being in a movie that’s not entertaining.
The life of a “celebrity photographer”—otherwise known as paparazzi—entails little glamour. More often than not, I was standing not on the red carpet behind a velvet rope but on the streets of New York, hiding behind a trash can in 20-degree weather, hoping for that decisive moment. The paparazzi always get a bad rap, from hiding behind trash to being called “trash.” But being on the street all day, you get a real feel for the city. In time, I found myself drawn to street photography.