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 VisitPhilly.com

Beginning Tuesday morning, I will be taking over VisitPhilly.com‘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.

Here’s my year in 52 Instagram photos

Click on any photo to scroll through the slides and get more info.
Follow me at http://instagram.com/jimmacmillan


Frozen fountain flashbacks on film


Before there was Instagram, before there was social media, and before we had camera phones — or even digital photography — some us were carrying around heavy old film cameras to cover daily life in Philadelphia.

0G4JJTSWI’m glad so many people are having fun today, but to say that visiting the frozen Swann Fountain on Logan Circle is a “once in a lifetime” experience might be a mistake — unless you are 12 years old or less.

I took these photos on my way to work on the afternoon of November 24th, 2000, which was the day after Thanksgiving, and possibly why so few people noticed — or seem to remember.

Or, maybe it was just before loving Philadelphia was cool.

But having these on file didn’t keep me from going back out this morning and posting a few new angles (1, 2, 3) on Instagram.

You better hurry of you want to get some pictures of your own. At this pace, we won’t have another chance until 2026.


p.s. If you have any doubts, here you can see one of the towering empress trees that formerly encircled the fountain.

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

Where’s the memorial? Philadelphia shooting deaths since 9/11 now exceed toll of the terrorist attacks

I posted this one year ago today ay GunCrisis.org:

World Trade Center, 2001. Photograph by Jim MacMillan

By most counts, 2977 lives were lost to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, excluding the 19 hijackers.

In response, the United States created a cabinet-level Homeland Security Department and occupied two nations, in one case leading to the longest war in U.S. history.

Since 9/11, more than 3000 people have been shot to death in the city of Philadelphia alone.

The latest victim was a 24-year-old man who was shot to death in the Northwood section of Philadelphia just before midnight Monday night. Photo by Joseph Kaczmarek.

According to Philadelphia Police statistics published by philly.com, 2865 people were shot to death in the city between October 1st, 2001 and the end of 2011. The Philadelphia Police web site now shows that 252 people have been killed so far this year.

More than a million people have been killed with guns in the United States since 1968, but there is no sign of a nationwide movement to stop the shooting. Please join GunCrisis.org in our search for solutions.

#Aftergram: War in Iraq

For a few weeks in 2004, I was in the thick of the heavist combat I saw during my year with the AP in Iraq, while covering the Battle of Najaf. This came long before iPhones and Instagram, and before most of what we call social media ever existed.

I had been thinking about chronicling my Najaf coverage through my Instagram account this year, but I see that I am already a couple of days behind my arrival date. Maybe I will set up an account to Instagram my whole year at the war on the tenth anniversaries next year.

RIP Stan Musial

Stan Musial, Hall of Fame, 2002Stan Musial plays “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” on his harmonica at Baseball Hall of Fame ceremonies in Cooperstown in 2002.

I had the opportunity to cover three induction ceremonies at the Baseball Hall of Fame over the years, and Musial was always one of the most engaging, spirited and unforgettable old players. He died Saturday at 92.