These past six months have been full of blessings and many life-changing photographic opportunities. I’m talking about the weddings with Naked Bike riders, newspaper photojournalism with Pope Francis’ blessing of Michael Keating and political photography for Patrick Murphy when he was confirmed as Under Secretary of the Army. Rebecca and I also celebrated our 10-year wedding anniversary with a fellow Philadelphia couple who decided to wed in Paris and take us with them to document their love. And for the latest honor, I’m proud to announce I now serve at the pleasure of Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, as one of the photographers they use.
Some of our loyal JPG Photography followers already spotted me in a few news images and stories, and in multiple Philadelphia Magazine images of Mayor Kenney from his Inauguration. I’m trying to blend in as much as possible, but it’s hard to camouflage a Canon 1DX with a 70-200 and Canon 5D Mark III around your shoulders.
It’s only been a few weeks, but the biggest lesson I’m learning is how difficult it is to be the chief executive of a major city. Mayor Kenney is tireless, for the lack of a better adjective. His day is tightly scheduled, and everyone wants his time. I thought my 300-person weddings were crazy. They are, but they’re not so challenging compared to Mayor Kenney’s loaded daily duties. I’m pretty sure I took 800 photos in one 45-minute-stretch when he started walking around City Hall on Inauguration Day.
Perhaps most interesting is observing how he gives his time. A few weeks ago, he visited the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center where about 40 inmates were graduating from a program designed to help juveniles and adult offenders make cognitive changes and gain job skills. During the more than 2-hour graduation, the Mayor only spoke for 5 minutes, and even then, it was halfway into the ceremony. However, he didn’t do the typical politician’s pop in, talk, and leave. He didn’t send an aide. He didn’t act uninterested. He showed up, stayed every minute, and helped convey diplomas. He was humble. He event told the inmates to use his name as a reference when they got out. He repeated this service for another class that same week.
I’ve covered politicians for 16 years, and I’ve never seen anyone do that before. Time and again, Mayor Kenney impresses me with how he interacts with children by requiring his staff to schedule him a visit at a school every week. At this rate, he might visit every school in the city before his (hopefully) 8 years is concluded.
If you spend a few minutes getting to know me personally, it’s clear I’m not ashamed of my progressive political background and desire for real social justice
That’s why this mayor is amazing. I’m a fan of every idea coming out of his mouth, whether it is his desire for criminal justice reform or his efforts to increasing the minimum wage. Maybe it’s his policies to improve relationships with the city’s LGBTQ community or how he speaks with authenticity unlike most politicians I’ve covered.
He has a big heart, and I’m proud he’s Philadelphia’s representative, showcasing what is great about the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.
With my new role, I have decided to cease my political activities in order to dedicate the time I need to this position and still run the best photography and event studio in Philly. I want to stress to all of my current and future clients that this new role will not significantly alter JPG Photography or my commitment to its clients or my own.
Please wish me luck and follow my work and that of our honorable #PhillyMayor on Twitter, Philly Mayor Jim Kenney on Facebook and PhilllyMayor on Instagram. In addition, the City of Philadelphia’s official Twitter, Facebook and Instagram handles will occasionally feature my work. The City of Philadelphia’s Flickr page is where photos will be hosted and may be downloaded for news/editorial and personal use.
And finally, thank you!
If you’re reading this, you helped prepare me for this challenging opportunity. I’d like to send a special thank you to Josh Dickson and Fiona Conroy, both of whom helped me navigate the world of politics for the past 5 years and supported me in this endeavor. I also couldn’t do this without my amazing staff, led by Stacey, and my mom, Paula. When this opportunity came about, I was hesitant, but my wise and beautiful wife, Rebecca immediately told me to jump on it. I’m so grateful for Rebecca and all of you for helping me get here.
Best, Joe G
Photographing Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney
And one cameo of yours truly…