Philadelphia, founded in 1682, is commonly known as America’s birthplace. Like any city, Philly has its share of lore, history, turmoil, and triumph. By 1776 the city was already home to the nation’s first stock exchange, library, and hospital. It also played a part in many pivotal events of the American Revolution. After the United States gained its independence, Philly’s prime location paved the way for the transportation industry, and therefore business in general, to flourish.
The city has witnessed a lot of ups and downs over the next few centuries. With Prohibition, the MOVE bombing, and near-bankruptcy being some of the lowest lows. However, Philly has embraced immigration, tourism, and art (Philadelphia has more murals and outside sculptures than anywhere else in the country). Because of this, it has been revitalized and has experienced population booms and a growth in the service industry. Considering the epic scale of its history, one can imagine the amount of stories that pass through this city every day. Because of this, an editorial photographer in Philadelphia is in the perfect place to help tell them.
At Wonderful Machine, we define editorial photography as anything done for a publication that tells stories about people, places, and events. Telling the stories that run through the City of Brotherly Love is a task requiring a myriad of voices to show its many sides. Using creativity, skill, resourcefulness, and above all, a focus on humanity, here are Philadelphia’s best editorial photographers.
Timothy Roberts is a Philadelphia editorial photographer dedicated to realism in both his images and his subjects. With a BA in journalism from Indiana University and an MA in creative writing from Boston University, Timothy is geared towards working with stories. Yet the ones he is most passionate about are the ones hiding in plain sight.
The stories I am drawn to are about places in transition and people who are struggling with the changes and chances of life. My pictures are observations more than humanitarian gestures. But they are always made with the hope of finding some insight into the way that people live.
Traveling the world, Timothy’s work is bound by the common thread of capturing his subjects in the midst of their lives. They are as likely to be looking at the camera as they are to be looking away in deep thought. He also goes out of his way to capture their world. Often showing the colors, the buildings, and the streets that make up their daily lives. In 2010 he was awarded the Sigma Delta Chi award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his coverage of the drug war in Juárez, México. His book Atlantic City, The Last Hurrah was published in 2020 by Daylight Books. Most recently he won second place in the 2023 American Photographic Artists competition for an image taken at the Gay Pride celebration in New York.
With editorial work ranging from collaborations with The New York Times to Rolling Stone, Malvern-based photographer Bryan Sheffield brings a passion for creative planning to his shoots. Receiving a BFA from The School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Bryan merges an eye for capturing inspiring moments with a sensibility of running a complete project, from initially mapping it out to executing it. This shows itself in the diversity of his images, all done with a dedication to the individual style of each. Some images are sharply detailed, in-studio, and focused on simply presenting his subject in the clearest light possible.
Others show his adventurous side, set outdoors, on-location, and based upon his subjects’ movement. A subtle blur evocative of Polaroids gives these particular images an edge. Bryan’s work is an outstanding match for youth culture, musicians, and any story celebrating an air of mystery. Yet, it is his ability to shine so equally in all of these diverse approaches that allows Bryan to tell any story on any subject. His dedication to embracing every step of the creative process not only allows this but presents the world of each of his subjects’ personalities.
Julia Lehman is referred to by clients as an “intuitive documentary photographer & artist.” An accomplished editorial photographer in Philadelphia, Julia’s true specialty is bringing out the authenticity within her subjects. Known for creating a safe and comfortable environment that encourages people to be themselves, she also brings this ability to companies seeking to rebrand themselves. Julia’s ability to work with people is clear in her diverse work which includes kids, educational settings, and corporate projects. Yet she is not limited to this. Also an accomplished interiors and architecture photographer, Julia has done extensive work that has been included in periodicals like Philadelphia Magazine.
What some might not expect is that she is also an experienced drone pilot who has an impressive portfolio of aerial images. Additionally, Julia is a dedicated underwater photographer, taking her skills to the world of fine art. With a passion for activism, especially environmental, you’ll find that she is a photographer who always tells the story with heart.
Matt Stanley is a Philadelphia editorial photographer who primarily works with people and their stories. Bringing empathy towards his subjects is perhaps his greatest skill and is seen in the honest expressions. of his subjects. When working in a studio Matt will allow them to look exactly as they feel, presenting them with dignity and having only a single color serving as a backdrop. Yet in most cases, he is capturing them in places where they feel most at home, both indoors and outside. His use of natural lighting is always well-timed and brings a warmth to his shots.
When he engages imagery more suited to lifestyle photography, he also brings creativity to the angles that he works from. Sometimes he is high up looking down, others he is on the ground capturing his subjects in motion. In all of his images, Matt brings clear detail, thoughtful presentation, and space for everyone in front of his lens to be themselves.
Taking pictures since the age of 8, Christina Peters is now a highly successful bi-coastal photographer. She owns and operates multiple studios across the country. Specializing in food photography, Christina is a hands-on professional who prefers to do production herself when able. She is just as comfortable doing one-day shoots as she is doing multiple-week engagements and overseeing a large crew.
Her work is bright and highly detailed. Often showing the fun side of food as well as the creativity involved in preparing it. All of her images explore the colors involved with each plate. So much so that Christina factors in the color of the surface serving as the background for her shot as part of the overall image. As well-versed in advertisements as she is in editorials, Christina has shot literally thousands of food images. Earning much respect in this industry, she also has been a featured speaker at colleges, workshops, conferences, and more.
Dedicated to the fun and exciting side of imagery, Stevie Chris is an editorial photographer in Philadelphia who brings adventure and excitement to all of his shoots. Often blending portraiture with conceptual photography, Stevie’s imagination is the only limit he considers.
Whether it’s a grandiose production or an smaller, intimate shoot, I thrive on surpassing expectations. I try to blend imaginative concepts with deep technical expertise. I like visual impact and drama. I like how things look better to me after looking through a lens blanketed in light.
With subjects usually appearing at their most extreme or dramatic, Stevie also uses the environment around them to create an exciting image. This is done with a meticulous approach to location scouting as well as a diversity in lighting tactics and post-production work. His subjects are always in the middle of some kind of action, from jumping, to thinking, to even being chased. Stevie’s resourceful use of location, color, and special effects make him a great pick for stories that engage with the adventurous to the fantastical.
Working professionally for over 3 decades, Dave Moser is a Philadelphia editorial photographer specializing in portraiture.
I’ve photographed everyone from CEOs to celebrities to industry leaders to politicians to the every day “regular” person for over thirty years.
His work is engaging not only for his skill but also due to the completeness of his vision. Highly adept in using lighting to bring out detail in his subjects, Dave consistently finds the perfect environment to showcase their personalities. This could be their place of business, their home, or a part of the city that speaks to their message. Yet he also covers many specialties within his portraiture work, including corporate, educational, healthcare, industrial, and lifestyle. All settings are home to Dave, and within them, he brings a creativity to the table that engages the fun side of his subjects.
Working across the country, Steve Boyle focuses on the active side of life. Sports, athletes in training, and even the celebration around a game all feature heavily in Steve’s portfolio. His path to sports coverage began when he worked as a photo editor for a fitness magazine. He also spent a year as a lighting assistant and lighting tech for Sports Illustrated, gaining many of the attributes of a seasoned sports photographer early in life.
After this, he began to work for himself and now has a successful career in both still and motion photography. He often has an inside pass in photographing some of the biggest athletes at the height of their careers. Often capturing their humor, energy, and dedication, Steve’s work presents both the human and warrior in every athlete he presents. Also worth mentioning is his ability to capture Philadelphia mascots in their element. Whether that is backstage, on the green, or deep in the crowd.
Colin Lenton has been a professional photographer for almost two decades. Operating from his studio in Philadelphia’s East Passyunk neighborhood, Colin’s passion is focused on people and the stories they tell. This makes him a perfect match for editorial portraiture. His work is richly detailed, showing an affinity for lighting, whether shooting indoors or outside.
Working often in both color and black & white, his expertise reveals itself in his mastery of both. When working with color, Colin uses lighting to provide an innate warmth to his photographs. This is an expression of his true goal. He aims to inspire optimism and kindness through the stories his images tell. If working with natural light, he lets the sun shine through the image, giving a realistic mid-day glow to his subjects that makes the viewer feel as if they were right there. Colin’s black-and-white images are sharp in their detail, while being exploratory in the levels of contrast. Regardless of the location, Colin’s images always provide a warm place to tell his subject’s story.
Gene Smirnov is an award-winning editorial photographer in Philadelphia dedicated to telling the stories of interesting people:
I produce photos and videos with and for creative people, thrill seekers, and visionaries, as well as regular folk. I’m fascinated by people’s stories and their unique perspectives. I find that there is so much to learn from many of the people I meet.
Working with candid images just as comfortably as staged scenes, Gene is a natural at lifestyle photography in addition to his evocative portraiture. He also takes this flexibility in working with his subjects to create effective youth culture photography. Gene is unafraid of conveying and exploring any emotion pertinent to his subject and their story. He utilizes both color and black-and-white imagery to best explore the lives of his subjects. In doing so, he brings equally affecting images to tell these stories.
As dedicated to architecture photography as it gets, Jeffrey Totaro’s backstory is just as impressive as his rich portfolio. Working as both an architect and structural engineer, Jeffrey found an interest in design early in his career. Transitioning into photography in 1996, his experience gave him a unique advantage in being able to both discern and communicate the design intent and structural complexity of his subjects.
Shooting both exteriors and interiors, Jeffrey is an expert at finding and including the fascinating aspects of a building in his shots. This shows in his capturing of not only the structures themselves but also the craftsmanship within their details. Fixtures on the ceiling, creative approaches to staircase railings, and a vast array of geometrical feats all populate Jefferey’s extensive portfolio. He also serves as co-chair on ASMP’s Architectural Specialty Group. This is a worldwide society of professional architectural photographers, as well as teaches in multiple photography workshops.
Often working commercially, Zave Smith is also an enthusiastic storyteller. Passionate about capturing the palpable aspects of life, Zave’s imagery focuses on finding his subjects deep within their element. Typically working in portrait and lifestyle imagery, he also has extensive work in healthcare, corporate, and kids photography. All of his work in these specialties is colorful, brightly lit, and engages people at their most passionate.
Whether they are doing their favorite activity outdoors or hard at work in a lab, all of Zave’s subjects are presented honestly and with respect. His personal projects are an extension of this. Using his lens to explore Philadelphia, Zave has a bountiful array of portraits and location shots of local staples. These include the iconic Reading Terminal Market and the South Philadelphia Italian Market. He also has had the courage to immerse himself in the world of tailgating Eagles fans. Often showing the mania and good-natured camaraderie that can be found at a home game.
Many facets of daily life define the mosaic of culture, personality, and history that is Philadelphia. As diverse and alive as the countless murals that cover it, no single point of view will ever capture this great city. Reflecting this multitude of styles, expressions, and voices, these Philadelphia editorial photographers show how dynamically this can be done.