Phil Kneen - February 16-111

I made these images of Sophia and Abi and few weeks ago, all shot on 35mm film. The day after I sent the package of undeveloped celluloid off to Spain my life took yet another painful emotional nose-dive. I haven’t really taken any photographs since. My lack of portraiture activity has not gone unnoticed…

People often ask me what the secret is behind a good portrait, how does anyone with a camera and a person in front of it transcend the mediocre? I’ve never been able to answer, because I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that I can’t photograph people when I’m unhappy. A quick look back through my blog since it started, nearly 5 years ago, is testament to that – this time last year, I wasn’t photographing too many faces…

I need someone to inspire me, not only with ideas, but as a reason to take photographs in the first place. I need someone to show my work to before I show anyone else, there as my harshest critic and my biggest fan. I don’t have that, for now.

Fortunately, in three weeks I’m heading to Japan with my 15 year-old daughter, Jess – if her positivity and humour and two weeks in Tokyo can’t lift me out of this dark funk, then nothing can.Phil Kneen - February 16-207 Phil Kneen - February 16-177Phil Kneen - February 16-199 Phil Kneen - February 16-126 Phil Kneen 120 - February 16-8Phil Kneen - February 16-136 Phil Kneen - February 16-194 Phil Kneen - February 16-5All images – Nikon F100, 50mm 1.4G. Film is Fuji Natura 1600 and Superia 400


  1. Graham Walker.

    Phil, I’ve followed you from day one. Not every day is going to be positive, we all have up days and down days days. The thing with you, Phil, is that whether it’s a good or bad day/week/month… you’re still producing the high-end photographs. It’s the good and bad that’s gotten you here, it’s what’s made you what you are, sculpted the amazing images you produce – don’t fight it, brother 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Reading between the lines in the last couple of weeks, I was suspecting something has happened though I wasn’t sure. I hope you feel better soon and the three weeks until the Japan trip will pass quickly. The time with Jess will cheer you up for sure.
    On another note, I’m probably exactly the opposite but being single for almost 20 years, there also was no other option 🙂 I’d never or very rarely show my pictures to anybody before I found them good enough to put them out but don’t really shoot portraits like you. I do find other people inspiring though, especially with respect to my writing.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Jenn

    Philly, you’re looking at this all wrong…look at the work you did in Spain last year, that was incredible and I know, for a fact, you were in a pretty dark place then. Nobody expects portraits every time, because you other stuff, your travel work, landscapes and photos of the mundane are all loved just as much. I know how sad you are, my dear 😦 But use it.


  4. I can relate to what you wrote, when I’m unhappy I can’t even pick up the camera. I hope you’ll feel better soon! And have a great time in Japan, I’m looking forward to seeing your photos from there 🙂
    The portraits on this post are amazing, that red head girl is gorgeous!


  5. Beautiful portraits, especially the 2nd one.
    The colours in the background really contribute to the overall result in this one.

    Hope you start to feel more inspired soon. I well understand how a person or setting brings out that inspiration to create.

    When I was painting back some 20+ years ago, a friend said I should try and paint more (and/or sell my work to make some money), but I said even though I could draw and paint well enough, I wasn’t inspired with painting. I couldn’t just sit down and paint picture after picture to make money. I can well understand your current stalemate.

    I hope the trip to Japan with your daughter brings out that inspiration and creativity again. If not your daughter’s humour, then perhaps the oriental street or culture. I find the Japanese a beautiful race. Their skin is so pure and translucent and perhaps that might stir your photographer’s eye.


  6. solaris5

    Great work as always, as Graham said we all have our ups and downs, mind you on the Island it’s not surprising with non stop rain for four months, even my dogs are feeling it.


  7. Diane Kilby

    You should put an ad in the newspaper – ‘Wanted-Muse’ 🙂

    But seriously, Phil, you’re a people magnet, you’re gonna be just fine, just give it a bit of time.


  8. MandyFromTheFarside

    I love your blog Phil. I love the photos, obviously, but I also immensely enjoy your writing too – witty, honest, frank… and sometimes heartbreaking. I’ve never met you (although I’d love to!), but I know the type of man you are – you’ll be fine. Dust settles, hearts mend, love returns. Give it time.


  9. Minako Toshikawa

    Hello Phil, I’m pleased to hear to you will soon be in Tokyo! I’d love to meet with you if you have time? I live in Kawasaki, which is only 10km south of Tokyo centre, but I’m not sure where you will be staying? (I do not drive, but the system of transport is strong)
    I’ve had a great love for your photography for the three years since I became interested in making photos myself. Your writing makes me laugh and cry. So maybe if you have the time we should meet? Maybe you’ll find your next muse here in Japan 😉



  10. Carl Matthews

    I know you’ve probably heard every cliche in the book – “It gets better with time”, “theres plenty more fish in the sea”, “if you love someone, let them go…”, etc, etc…. but none of it really helps when you’re hurting, eh?
    I remember you said to me once, “The knack to always landing on your feet is to make sure you stay upright on the way down” – stay upright, Phil, don’t give in. And hey, so someone didn’t want to be with you, but someone else will – that I guarantee.

    Now get out there and make some more beautiful portraits!!


  11. Katie K

    This made me cry, it really hit home. After my partner left I didn’t paint for months, as you know, Phil. He was as important to me as I know she was to you, but this pass, everything finds its balance. I promise you 🙂


  12. Super Cal

    My friend, you’re looking at this all the wrong way – a lot of great art’s produced in the throws of heartbreak and grief. Concentrate on your photojournalism, go find misery and loss and document it. You’ll find it cathartic.


  13. Frank from the Valley

    You’ll be fine, bro! I love your portraits, I love all your photography actually! You might not be aware of the amount of other photographers you inspire yourself, so you need to get back on this horse. Lovers come and go, that’s life.


  14. Francis J

    You work is amazing Phil, don’t you dare hang-up your cameras! Break-ups hurt, but being with someone who isn’t right for you is a crime to the heart. You obviously weren’t meant to be 😦
    Have you ever read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle? If you haven’t, then you should, I think you’d get a lot from it.


  15. Ken Tomatsu

    Hello Phil. I’m pleased to hear that you will be visiting to Tokyo! Myself and many of my friends are great lovers of your photography and it would be so privileged if we could meet with you on your visit. Every Saturday me meet at Hamarikyu Gardens, we all make photographs and then for good food and maybe some beers 😉 If you have no plans for any Saturday you may be here, then please join us.
    If you are shooting film? which many of us do (inspired by you 🙂 ) we can show you many places to buy film and to have it made well for scans and prints. I also know that you will have a long line of people who would see honor in being photographed by you 🙂

    Please, I look forward to seeing you soon. Ken Tomatsu


  16. Thank you, that’s very kind. If you send me your email or add me on FB (Phil Kneen or Phil Kneen Photography), we can organise something. I’m only actually in Tokyo for one Saturday, so I’m not sure of the logistics, to be honest.


    • Ken Tomatsu

      Thank you 🙂 Where you are is no problem, I will organise for you and your daughter to be collected and returned safely. A good meal and drinks will be my pleasure. You should bring no money 🙂


  17. Mary C

    Oh no, I’m sorry 😦 I thought you guys were good together. Please get your cameras out though, you’re my favourite photographer!


  18. Wow… two very stunning women Phil that you have captured with sensuality and sensitivity. I hope things in terms of portraiture work are turning around for you and we all occasionally have” photographers block”. Have a great trip with your daughter.


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