by Elizabeth Coady
When Jeremy Simon throws open the door to 8117 Germantown Ave. on Friday, Sept. 29, for the grand opening of his new photography studio, he will be celebrating a sort of homecoming of the mind.
Simon, 47, spent three years practicing his visual artistry in London on an entrepreneurial visa. But when the visa expired in 2014, and he couldn’t find a property he could afford that would have allowed him to extend his stay, he returned to the United States and settled in Portland, Ore., but that west coast city with a reputation for quirk didn’t jibe.
“It didn’t really work for what I do,’’ said Simon who specializes in evocative black-and-white portraiture of pets and pregnant moms (not necessarily in that order). “So I went on an epic journey to find London in America.”
He found it in Philadelphia, specifically Chestnut Hill.
“I looked at New York, and I couldn’t make it work logically with my family – kids and dogs and so forth,’’ he said. “I saw Chestnut Hill and it reminded me of the neighborhood we lived in (in London).”
Located in southeast London, East Dulwich was a warm neighborhood of families and shops that was founded in the 19th century.
“It felt like home,’’ Simon reminisced. “I loved it there. It had a curvy street that sort of curved around a hill with shops. And Chestnut Hill felt like that to me.”
So Simon, along with his artisan wife Jody, his three daughters – Emma, 19, Britta, 18, and Flora, 12 – three felines – Frances, Eddie and Magnus – and Brutus, the 14-year-old geriatric dog, picked up and moved eastward this summer.
The culmination of that move happens Friday when Simon holds an opening reception at his new studio from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wine, cheese, juices and sweets will be served.
The storefront space at 8117 Germantown Ave. appealed to Simon because of its open feel and its pressed-tin ceiling, its proximity to storefront businesses in a neighborhood with families.
Simon hopes his artistic approach to capturing loved ones on black and white film – he eschews digital – will appeal to Philadelphians whom he credits with having an artistic sensibility.
“My strong suit is getting an archival print that’s working on the wall,” he explained.
He described his intentions as “artistic” rather than “documentary.”
“There’s a difference between putting a photo in a small frame or putting it on your refrigerator and behind glass on a wall,’’ he said.”Photography is about style. It’s not a commodity. I’m trying to have a unique look.
“Basically I’m going backwards to go forward. That is to say my specialty is old-school analog portraiture. Stylistically my style is probably what you’d see around 1900 or 1920.”
The Colorado native previously had a photography studio in Denver after graduating from the University of Colorado in Boulder and attending the Colorado Institute of Art (now the Art Institute of Colorado). As was the fashion of the time, he began to experiment with digital pictures in 2006. But after six months of working with that method, he concluded that “it was so clear that the pictures from the dark room were better.”
Today, he only uses black and white film, allowing him to create a more archival photograph and to play with lighting and exposure times.
“My strong suits are pregnancy and newborns,” he said. “Most photographers look at editorial photography, fashion photography to influence their pictures. But I’m looking at fine art photographs.
“My litmus test is if I didn’t know the subject or care about the subject, would I still hang this on the wall?
Elizabeth Coady is a contributing writer.