Chasing Ben Franklin

I just spent four days photographing Ben Franklin’s presence in Philadelphia, as “Guest Instagrammer” for @VisitPhilly, counting down to Franklin’s 308th birthday on Friday:

I went to 17 distinctly different locations to produce 20 photographs, met a lot of interesting people and learned a lot about Franklin and Philadelphia.

It was more difficult than I expected to maintain the serendipitous flavor of Instagram while simultaneously focusing on one topic, and I think I was just beginning to hit my stride as time ran out.

There was something to be learned about why so many traditional photo assignments fall flat by putting the topic before the vision, and the something to be accomplished by combining social media with traditional narratives, although I think I was just beginning to figure it out.

It was also a challenge to craft informative and sticky captions on the fly, as I quickly realized that my usual “Yo, check out Ben” texts would not be enough, while too much info might put me in the sights of the many historians in this city who know so much more than I ever will.

My Fitbit says that I walked more than 20 miles over those four days, but I’m looking at that as a benefit. I took a couple of trains too.

In the end, I hope to find the chance to do more professional Instagramming, but I’m going to focus on my own account @jim macmillan for a while now.

This week: Chasing Ben Franklin for

Beginning Tuesday morning, I will be taking over‘s Instagram account to post pictures focusing on Ben Franklin — “The First American” – as we work our way up to his 308th birthday on Friday.

I will have to do my best to live up previous guest Instagram-ers, including old friends David Maialetti, Eric Mencher and Neal Santos.

Please follow along at @visitphilly, share your suggestions for what I should shoot, and let me know what you think about the results.

Press club honors and ambitions

Earlier this week
, I was recognized with a new award from the nation’s oldest press club: The Pen and Pencil Club honored me with one of their inaugural Philadelphia News Awards, in my case for “Best Social Media Use of the Year” — “on Twitter himself” and for my work @GunCrisisNews.

This is the second social media award for the Gun Crisis Reporting Project this year — including our Philly Geek Award — and my first local award since 2009, when Philadelphia Magazine gave me a “Best of Philly,” calling me the city’s best “Nuevo Journalist,” back when nobody really knew how to articulate what I was doing.

About the P&P competition: I’m never one to hand out participant awards or say that all the losers are winners, but in this case I think that the nomination process — with selections made by the club’s board of governors — had more authority than the final selections, which were determined by an open online survey.

In other words, while I feel honored to have been included on a very respectable list of winners and grateful to all who voted, I would like to equally congratulate all of the nominees in this case, for grabbing the attention of our peers on the board — a highly-accomplished and critical bunch of people, found on this page.

Check the complete list or winners and nominees here:

Overall, journalists spend much too much time giving each other awards, but this endeavor also did a remarkable job of convening more top-shelf Philadelphia professionals than I have ever seen pulled together in one room, and that’s worth repeating.

I hope the process becomes more refined next year, and now I am hoping to help make that happen, and pursue others changes in the air at this esteemed institution: I will be running for a position on the Pen and Pencil’s board of governors for the first time next month.

So, If you are a member, please come out and vote.

Meanwhile, learn more about the P&P, keep up with events and other news, join the Facebook group, follow on Twitter, and sign up for your membership here:

Thanks to everybody who got the awards off the ground and to all who joined us for this week’s celebration.

Pen and Pencil Club Philadelphia News Awards: “The best journalism that this city has to offer”

I’m starting this week very happy to find myself listed among some of my favorite people, nominated for the inaugural 2013 Pen and Pencil Club Philadelphia News Awards, celebrating and recognizing “the best journalism that this city has to offer.”

Unabashed endorsements: I respect and admire a lot of my colleagues on the list, but I especially hope you will take a minute to vote for:

  • Kathy Matheson: Breaking News nominee from AP — and love of my life, and..
  • Joe Kaczmarek: Multimedia nominee — and my co-founding partner at the Gun Crisis Reporting Project.

Vote early and often. It’s Philadlephia after all:

Pen & Pencil Club: Awards

The Pen & Pencil Club is the oldest continuously operating press club in America, and the second oldest in the world.

Tonight at Drexel: “War/Photography: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath”


The curator of “War/Photography: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath” is presenting tonight in a Drexel University class which is free and open to the public.

Anne Tucker, Curator of Photography at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, curated “War/Photography,” which went from Houston to LA to the Corcoran in Washington, and will head to the Brooklyn Museum in November.  It covers 165 years of war photography and was put together over the past ten years.

The class will meet at 6:30 in  Room 301 in the Main Building at Drexel, at 3141 Chestnut Street.

The New York Times wrote about the exhibit last year: Battlefield Images, Taking No Prisoners