Photogenic Presents, Episode 2: Albert Lee of @urphillypal

Photogenic Presents, Episode 2: Albert Lee of @urphillypal

Photogenic Presents, Episode 2: Albert Lee (@urphillypal)

@urphillypal in his Classic Tee from @TogTees
Albert Lee is the face behind the popular Philadelphia Instagram account @urphillypal. We took a few minutes to learn more about his photography. 
What was your first camera?
My first camera was actually a film camera in grade school. It was an Olympus – I can’t remember which one.  My parents actually really liked shooting and so they taught me how to use the Olympus.

My first digital camera was that Sony Alpha.  And the only reason why I wanted a Sony Alpha was – and this is really cheesy - because I liked the logo.  So I wound up using a Sony and it was good for what it was but after 5 years the motor died.

Then I bought a Canon Rebel for my mom for Christmas and she was like, it’s too big, I don’t want it anymore.  So she sold it back to me – great mom!  Right now I have a Canon Rebel T3i but going to get a 6D very soon.

Describe your photography in 3 words.

Bright. Sunny. Positive. I know that I know those those 3 words can all but the same idea but I've learned that there is a lot of hate in the world and a lot of negativity.  One day many years ago someone said to me “Oh my goodness, that picture you made – a cityscape - it really made me miss Philly and it really brightened my day.”

I have a thing for sunsets and the reason why is I like how they make people feel. It’s like the end of the day and people kind of feel like it's a great way to enjoy a natural sight.  And so I thought, well, why wouldn’t that be something to keep adding to and crafting?  People can always contribute a little more to society, you can always add a little more.  I thought, this is my way of adding to society – of trying to do something great.

If you could be a world-famous X photographer, what would that X be?

Landscapes.  Ansel Adams is my inspiration.  I think growing up, I saw some Ansel Adams photos and I couldn’t believe they were actually made with a camera.  I’m a city boy – first generation.  I don’t know what its like to camp – I’ve camped once – not very good at it.

Cityscapes are great, but they’re all man-made.  Landscapes show you the majestic beauty of nature. When you see them, you’re like, this is what the world looks like untouched.  That’s why people love seeing photos of Iceland or when they go to Antarctica.  These places are untouched by man – you can go out there and shoot these ridiculous landscapes. 

I’m going to Arizona in November to shoot and I’m really excited to shoot there.  I don’t get to do a lot of landscapes, so I’m really excited about it.  With landscapes, you have to figure out what to shoot.

What is your favorite place to shoot in Philly that people might not know about?

My favorite place to shoot in Philadelphia that isn’t so well known is the Spring Garden street bridge, next to the Art Museum.  People have seen it but very few people know where it is.  People see the Art Museum, but unless you’re looking for it, you don’t see the bridge. It’s not as obvious as the Art Museum steps, Race Street Pier or City Hall.  You have to actually walk towards it to know it’s there.

I think in really highlights the city well. It gives you a great perspective – this is our changing skyline.  It’s one of the great views of the city that you don’t have to pay for, that offers a great view in a wonderful area.

What specifically is it about photography that you’re so passionate about?

I went to school for communication, and I’m a good writer, but I can’t do math at all.  My job currently is as a write – I create written content. Photography is a visual medium.  People say a picture is worth a thousand words – well it’s true. When you can make a photo instead of using words – people will know exactly what you mean.  Imagery does such a great job of communicating. Like with the photo of the Marines putting the American flag up on Iwo Jima – you don’t need words, you just know.

Really good photography just tells you what it is. The Philadelphia Art Museum here just had an exhibit called Creative Africa, exploring all sorts of neat stuff including street art. The gentlemen whose work they showed didn’t speak English but they were great photographers, and you can tell just by looking at their photos what they were trying to say – you don’t need the caption.

What’s your favorite TogTees design?

I like the CLASSIC tee. I know a lot of people are more into shooting digital, but the beauty of film is that you only have so many shots. You have to perfect your shot- you only have 36 frames.  You have to compose and frame it.

Name 3 photographers you would give a free TogTee to

Dave Maialetti @maialetti – he works for the Daily News.  He’s a professional photographer but all his Instagram shots are with an iPHone and there’s no contest.  He takes photos better than 99% of people I know – he’s just that good.  It has nothing to do with the equipment.  He just knows how to take pictures. That’s the difference between people who are skilled at what they do and people who are amateurs.  I’m an amateur, he’s a professional, and he proves it every time he takes a picture. 

@CCPhilly – Dave. He’s the reason why I even care about Instagram.  If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t even be on it.  He’s a guy that started taking all these great, impressive shots of Center City and I saw them and I was like, that guy, I want to be like that guy.  Then I met him, and he is the nicest guy, and I was like, this is the guy I want to be like, to work with.  He’s got so much positivity, he’s always being nice, and that rubs off a lot.  I model a lot of my ideas and impressions of the city based on him.

@ABrilliantDummy.  A lot of people don’t know – she’s a woman.  She is the best wall hunter in the city.  She just knows where to find walls.  She doesn’t have that much equipment.  She has a basic camera, and she uses her phone a lot – a Samsung Galaxy.  She doesn’t have all this fancy equipment, she just knows what a good picture is and how to form a shot.  She is really impressive, she has a great creative mind, she’s a genius.  She’s really good and she knows how to form a shot.

Thanks so much Al! See you around town... 


Editor's Note: From 2016-2021, Photogenic Supply was called TogTees. We changed our name in mid-2021, but you might still occasionally see our old name on our website. We're still the same people :)

You can also read the full Photogenic Presents Series, follow us on Instagram, or contact us.

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