Philip Montgomery - On Documentary


Recorded remotely on 5th September 2020, Gem chats to photographer Philip Montgomery. Renown for his urgent documentary work that focuses on the American experience, his work examines the social issues of our time, utilising observational strategies of documentary and aesthetic approaches of fine art. Based in New York City, he is a graduate of the Photojournalism and Documentary Program at the International Center of Photography. His work been exhibited around the world and is included in the 2020 Foam Talent Exhibition in Berlin.

In this Conversation, Philip shares his journey into the industry and how his ideas and approach to documentary work have evolved throughout his career. We talk about how he connects with the people he photographs, how he works in moments of crisis or unrest and how he seeks to serve the reader. We discuss his approach to lighting, which brings a celestial quality, activating the audience and drawing attention to pervasive details, which might otherwise go unseen. We talk about his upcoming book and the experience of documenting the Covid-19 Pandemic in New York earlier this year.

As the pandemic took hold, Philip was asked to be on an open-ended assignment for the New York Times Magazine, working on their Covid-19 coverage in New York, which was quickly becoming an epicentre of the outbreak. Philip spent two months visually mapping a city deeply affected, from restaurant owners forced into uncertainty, to makeshift testing centres. Yet, the critical story lay behind the doors of the public hospital system. The scenes he captured are urgent, overwhelming and bear witness to the enormity of the situation. What unites these photographs is Philip's unique ability to find moments of stillness in chaos.

Follow Philip on Instagram @philipmontgomery on Instagram and visit to see his work. Follow Gem @gemfletcher on Instagram and Twitter. If you've enjoyed this episode PLEASE leave us your feedback and maybe 5 stars if we're worthy in the Apple Podcast store. Thank you for listening to The Messy Truth, we will be back very soon. For all requests, please email


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