Photographer Phil Cantor’s photography show “LINE OF WORK” opened at the New Providence Memorial Library on February 3.  Over 25 portraits of working men and women who live or work near the photographer’s studio in Montclair will be exhibited on the walls of the library’s reading area through March 30.  Cantor will explore the genesis of his “LINE OF WORK” exhibit and its place in the history of photography at a free gallery talk at the library on Thursday, February 20 at 7 PM.

“Life looks a little different when viewed through a camera lens. Living and working as a photographer in New Jersey for almost three decades has given me a unique perspective on the people that make a small town what it is,” said Phil Cantor.

Using a single backdrop, a single light source and a self-imposed set of rules, these portraits capture 21st century professions, ranging from a pizza baker to firefighter, baseball umpire to museum director, hairdresser to escape artist. 

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Cantor draws a straight line from this show to renowned fashion photographer Irving Penn’s seminal photo series, “Small Trades.”  Penn photographed an army of tradesmen in 1951 in Paris, London and New York. These were often the type of people that don’t usually get the glossy fashion magazine spreads that Penn often photographed. By bringing onion sellers, chimney sweeps, and lorry cleaners into the studio, Penn was able to create “psychological portraits” of the subjects that captured their reality better than if they were photographed in their work environment. 

In doing his own version over two years, Cantor documented working people, their pride in their jobs, their joy and the way they view themselves (versus the way the world might view them). Just like Penn, Cantor says, “I’m doing away with their usual environments and placing people into the detached space of a photography studio, allowing us to observe them without distraction.” 

Cantor’s career began in the 1980s in New York as a corporate and industrial photographer. He moved to New Jersey thirty years ago opening a studio in Montclair specializing in portraiture. In 2014, his work called CLOSE UP, was the subject of a one-man show at Berkshire Hathaway and his work has also appeared in group shows at The Colonnades Gallery in Montclair, in the American Society of Media Photographers, New Jersey Chapter in Fairfield, NJ, and at the Levittown Public Library, Levittown, NY. 

The New Providence Memorial Library is located at 377 Elkwood Ave, New Providence, New Jersey. To RSVP to the gallery talk on February 20, go to: or call the library at (908) 665-0311.