Penny Knobel-Besa is a playwright, producer, director and award winning photographer. In 1991 she was named Maryland Photographer of the Year and received a national award from the Big Brother/Big Sisters. After other regional awards and exhibitions she put aside photography to continue her theatre studies attending Yale University for some post graduate work. In 1993-94 she produced and directed a musical Off-Broadway in New York as playwright and one of the composers. The play was picked up for possible development as a movie. Returning home in 1995 she was approached by the arts community to organize a Children's Theatre Project in Cumberland which she did; establishing a theatre arts academy, producing plays at the Cumberland Theatre in 1995, the Palace Theatre, Frostburg in 1996 and at the old Embassy Theatre in 1997-98. In May 1998 having accomplished her goals for the community she left the theatre to return to photography.
To build new bodies of work in 1998-99 she drove over 18,000 miles alone camping across the United States and Canada interviewing women in laundromats with the intention of writing a book called "Dirty Laundry." "I am inspired by the grace, grit, and glitter of people to capture their images." But there were interesting people everywhere, the trapper in Cold Foot Alaska, the southern poet security guard, and the oil worker cook at the Arctic Circle. A Hollywood gas station attendant gave her a better title when he asked, "Are you anybody I should know?" She told him, "Not yet." With that title she could include the sled-dogging fur-trader, 20 year Las Vegas minister, and boobs & butts of Mardi Gras revelers. Several images have been published in the "Antietam Review," an award winning literary magazine and included in two exhibitions. This is still a work in progress.
Now she’s shooting color photographs that look like paintings. "I shoot candid shots with fast film, rarely use a tripod, and sometimes shoot from a moving vehicle, even while driving. These photos had their initial exhibition in Austria viewed by mixed group of Austrians, Germans, Koreans, Belgians, and one Italian who doubted they were photographs, 'That isn't a photograph, it's a painting.' Now I look forward to hearing that each time they are shown."
None of the photos are computer enhanced or manipulated in anyway. "I don't use filters rather I look for those natural effects of light, reflections, and watch for those moments when life imitates art. Photography is all about catching the light in a dynamic way that creates interesting images."