Visiting the Penumbra Foundation is like taking a step into a different world. It isn't a museum, it isn't a traditional studio; rather the feel of the Penumbra Foundation is as if you were opening your eyes after a long sleep, very comfortable yet somehow disorienting.
Silver nitrate, black aluminum, collodion, ether alcohol, leather, steel, wood, glass: these are the elements that feed the heart of the Penumbra Foundation. The real hearts at work - Geoffrey Berliner and Jolene Lupo - are the photographers. We had the utter pleasure of sitting for a 4x5 wet plate tin-type portrait in December of 2016. It was, hands down, one of the finest experiences I've ever had.
If you've never had a portrait session where only a single image will be made in an hour's visit, you should make a time to do so. The process of having our image made at with Geoffrey and Jolene was less about the camera, and more about getting to know us. We chatted about art, theater, personal projects, New York, and even photography. By the time we left, it was as if we had entered into their close circle of friends. The image now, even months later, reminds us of the deep affection we felt for the place and the photographers.
As a photographer myself, it's easy to see how deeply passionate and knowledgeable Geoffrey and Jolene are about their craft. They got everything set up, posed us, and captured our image effortlessly, chatting with us the whole time about life and the world. Truly something to aspire to.
The Penumbra Foundation is more than just a studio for historic photo methods. They also have a camera repairman who shares the basement, and house a massive collection of old camera bodies, lenses, parts, and just about every kind of unique film photo equipment you can think of. If you have any interest in photographic ephemera, no visit to Penumbra would be complete without a tour of the basement and library.
Luckily, Geoffrey absolutely loves cameras and it really shows.
If you are going to New York and have a couple hours to spare - go get your portrait made. It will be the best thing you can bring home, it is absolutely worth it for any one who has any interest in the photographic arts. It's even worth it for someone who just wants a unique portrait.