About me

Philip Goldsmith

When I was five years old I stood on a camel’s head in North Africa. The camel never noticed. It was a cunning photographic trick my father accidentally pulled off, one of many he performed during family outings. Others include amputating feet (and the occasional head), creative portraits of intense boredom or irritation, an inadvertent disregard for traditional compositional techniques, and long-distance shots of us without the use of a telephoto lens.

camel head
Camel. Head. Foot.

What did all this teach me? Perhaps nothing, although my young creative subconscious might have started to understand how photos can elicit emotional responses, albeit not the sort my father might have been hoping for. The image became a sort of meme in our family. I certainly hope to generate lasting impressions with my pictures, the same way my father unwittingly managed in this case. I do also own a telephoto lens.

They might not have had a reliable photographic record, but North African sojourns, European family holidays, house moves, and other assorted disruptions during my childhood did foster something that has reliably stayed with me: wanderlust and a curiosity about the world, which I’m sure led me to eventually become a journalist, leave the UK, and bounce around the world, living, working, traveling, and always exploring.

I acquired my first “proper” camera while I was “working” at a beach club one summer in California. I first used it professionally taking photos of crushed cans during a media event at a recycling plant in northern England. I like to think the stacks of colorful trash I captured on film helped spice up my technical magazine article that was otherwise probably as dull as the weather in Warrington that day.

Sahara dunes
My sister and I in the Sahara Desert long ago. Apparently I have a thing for deserts.

And so began my continuing journey exploring and documenting the world through words and pictures. That original SLR has long since retired, successively replaced by many others that have traveled with me from Europe to the Americas and Asia as I sought to prove Henri Cartier-Bresson’s famous quote true: “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” In this snap-happy digital age maybe that quote should be: “Your first 100,000 photographs…”. Let’s just say that a great many images have been discarded along the way.

As the frames added up I began to feel like a bit of a contrarian documentarian — a photojournalist at heart with an urge to explore the abstract or artistic angle of whatever story I’m documenting. I’ve never thought of myself as having a particular photographic style, however, more a sense that mine’s an evolving photographic journey, which probably began with a camel in the desert of North Africa and led me, in a roundabout way, to taking pictures of mushrooms (amongst other things) near my home in New York City. En-route I hope I’ve always been a fungi!