Photography has the ability to transport you to another world, to a place that no longer exists. It’s a snapshot of a moment standing still in time, yet it takes you back to a place grounded in familiarity and realization– perhaps even to a place that you come to know and love today. As the old adage goes, photography is a love affair with life itself. And what a great love affair it is.
From collaborating with magazines such as Love, Garage, Interview, Vogue Italia, Esquire, and more to discovering Boston’s greatest perspective on the rooftop of The Newbury Boston, Phil Poynter has captured the hotel’s storied history and created a ‘Love Letter to Boston’ through his own photography lens. It’s in this city where he finds a connection to his home country in England and witnessed the change from the ’90s to today.
We sat down with world-renowned photographer Phil Poynter and discovered how he sees the city, finding the old with the new and the new with the old, at The Newbury Boston.
Budding photographers in the audience? Always have a camera in your hand and listen in. Phil shares his top three tips for the next generation of transformative photographers.
You’ve had the opportunity to travel and see the world through photography. Why does Boston stand out to you? How do you feel connected to the area?
Just landing at Logan gets me excited — it’s one of the few cities I know where you feel like you’re landing in the ocean. Right away I see possibility. I have been particularly fascinated by the Hancock Tower, what it reflects is what I find so compelling: the people, students, locals, the architecture, and the history. It’s almost like a hall of mirrors, there are many different facets, so many possibilities. Originating from the UK, I see so much of my own home in Boston... there’s so much that feels familiar here.
Where do you look to grab inspiration for your work?
Bringing a narrative to an image is always highly important to me, so inspiration tends to come from the subject itself, its own uniqueness, whether a person, object, or setting, and their interaction with the surroundings. I am inspired by beauty, color, light, history, and so many more elements, this is almost endless…
So much of your work focuses on portraits and bringing life to space through a person or subject. How do you see this translating into your images for The Newbury Boston?
The Newbury Boston is a historic part of Boston’s heritage. Some might even say “she’s back.” The recent renovations will provide the setting to reinforce Newbury’s connection to the world of art, fashion, distinctive lifestyle, and design. Each image is captured with intention of conveying the unique experience that is The Newbury Boston and that it will continue to offer to its guests. The images will capture a moment, a unique “snapshot” that tells the story, conveying the “magic” of the location.
What are some of your favorite views in Boston?
Certainly may be surprising! I adore the view coming from the north by the Science Museum, the city can be seen at an angle that is unique: the lower, flatter part of Back Bay with the Prudential Center/John Hancock Tower in the background. In truth, it’s that whole drive that I love, the city shifting and changing throughout the ride from Cambridge. Of course, I cannot avoid including the view from the top of The Newbury Boston! One feels totally immersed in the city.
It does feel different to be totally immersed in the city’s shifts and changes. Can you walk us through your thoughts and creative journey behind developing a pictorial Love Letter to Boston with this in mind?
From my own perspective, it began when I was younger. I had several friends that were based in Boston. We would often venture to the top of the highest point just to be able to see the John Hancock Tower & The Prudential Center.
Over the years Boston became a very exciting and fascinating place. Some of my friends that attended Boston University used the Museum of Fine Arts as if it was a cafeteria! Another group introduced me to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and I have one friend by the name of Peter Elliot, a restaurant critic for Bloomberg, that introduced me to the diverse culinary experience in Boston. I have therefore witnessed the change in the city from the ’90s until today. Incorporating this true fondness for Boston, from my own personal experience, provides the perfect foundation for integrating this love and respect into my images.
What kind of story are you looking to portray for The Newbury Boston and the city?
The story has to convey that Boston isn’t an old-world, inaccessible place, that it has transitioned in the past 30 years to be one of the most modern, most progressive, and alluring cities. The Newbury Boston is more than a hotel, it’s about combining all that Boston is and has become. Even thinking back to the associates the hotel has worked with from the beginning... their pride in reimagining The Newbury Boston and returning to this landmark has been an inspiration to watch. Now, the added collaborations with Mario Carbone and the other great designers and brands like 12.29 will hugely enhance the desirability of the location and what it has to offer. It’s a place that guests will continue to consider The Newbury Boston as their “second home” in Boston.
Favorite three places that you always visit while staying in Boston?
I love walking around the North End. there are still some real gems there (and a great hat maker..), Neptune Oyster, Bricco. Bliss. Maybe because they were the first places I discovered in Boston, I still love the Aquarium and Faneuil Hall. If I have time, I still take the ferry from Logan to Central Wharf just so I can start over again. And of course, the Public Garden and Boston Common– I so enjoy being in the middle and just deciding what my favorite view is and then set out for a walk.
What would you like to teach the next generation of photographers and creative directors?
I will learn from them...I have the experience, they have youth, it’s a great combination.
What are your top 3 photography tips?
Have a camera with you at all times, don’t stop observing and interacting with people...