Back Into the Woods. Wissahickon Trail

As Michael Penn leaves his loft, he also leaves the city noise, traffic, and pollution behind in exchange for the dewy, cedar scented serenity of the Wissahickon Valley. Just a quick 30 minute train ride to the western edge of Philadelphia lies a new project for Michael.

Actually, this is a project resumed with a fresh new eye. The last time he turned his camera to the woods it was over several sessions that had him in the park alone, between Midnight and 3AM on moonless nights. This was pre-Facebook/Instagram/Smartphone and the experimental shots were captured with his Nikon D70 at super slow speed. One shot of the Wissahickon Creek kept the aperture open for 45 minutes turning the small falls into a whipped puff of cloud and exposing what seemed like every star in our known galaxy.

That was three desktop computers ago and although the images were captivating, Michael decided they didn’t fit into his style and philosophy. The images just weren’t him.

Three sessions in, Michael’s untitled new project, is exploring the same techniques and frame of mind that he has used throughout his successful urban street photography portfolios.

It’s high contrast and natural. You wouldn’t think you would experience a sense of motion from a still life scene in the woods but somehow it’s happening.

See more from this collection on Instagram


As one goes through the images so far it’s not hard to see and feel a similarity to The Philadelphia Project, or Welcome to Market East. There are event hints of The Ben Franklin Bridge project.

What’s more strange is when you compare the manmade structures and day to day life in a city with the overgrown organic environment of the forest there really shouldn’t be a correlation, yet images from the previously mentioned portfolios can live perfectly, side by side with the images of this new project.

Natasha Hulme-Penn, Contributing Editor
November 10th, 2015