I've always wanted to photograph the Pope. Well... mostly it was because of my dad. He's always told me the story how in 1976, when then Pope John Paul II came to Philadelphia, my dad made his way down to the Ukrainian Cathedral in Franklin St. His plan was to go outside, photograph the procession, and then make it way back into the cathedral. Whelp, that didn't happen. He got the entrance part right, then smack. The doors into the cathedral were shut. Closed. Anyone who was inside stayed inside and anyone hanging around the outside, just stayed put. I know my dad was bummed. But he managed to get stuck between the news reports. A little luck was on his side. Sure enough, Pope John Paul II made his way over to the reports, and *snap*. My dad starting photographing away. He had is own "Pope photo."
What I wanted to do was get a Pope photo of my own and place it next to my dad's. And sure enough, it was announced the Pope Francis would be coming to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families. I knew this was my moment to get "that shot" but how do I do it? I was able to obtain a press pass for the entire World Meeting of Families after a six-month application process. I was able to cover any World Meeting of Families activities but had to apply for separate Papal events. I wasn't granted access to shooting the Papal mass, and was pretty bummed about it too.
But sure enough, luck too was on my side. With a little kick from my parents and on the day of this Papel mass, I asked the organizers whether any extra "photograph only passes" for the mass. And somehow... some way... they gave me a pass for the press area. Just like that.
Getting into the press area felt like it was out of the movies. Any press had to be bussed into and out of any venue. So, little ole' me with my "The Ukrainian Weekly" photo pass was standing between CBS3 anchor Uke Washington on my left and CNN anchor Anderson Cooper to my right. As we were being bused in, millions of people lined the streets. It was surreal. And were still about six hours away from the Papal's first blessing.
As minutes were being counted down, the sense of Papal anticipation was palpable. You could hear the rumblings of the Philadelphia Police motorcycles escorting the Papal vehicle. The lights were blaring from side to side. Everyone was waiting with anticipation. I was on the right side of the press area, and about two rows deep. News reports were trying to get the best "live" POV shot for their respected news stations. Just as the Pope-mobile was making its way past our area, a Miami news reporter was trying to make is presence known by sticking out both elbows to better stabilize his iPhone video. I took that opportunity to stick my lens right through this gapping hole and shot away. You can see the new anchor's arm on the left edge of the frame and his cellphone on the right. His arms made for an unexpected framing opportunity that I managed to take advantage of.
Sure enough, I got my very own "Pope Photo"