In May of 2015 I got a phone call. Mashable had just written an article about how I use photography, writing, and social media to help non-profits tell their story, and I was constantly being barraged by non-profits who wanted to work together. This phone call really stood out.
"We'd like to hire you to photograph Pope Francis."
"Ummmm. Yes. Yes please!"
A few months later I was DC bound for a week-long journey covering the Pope's historic visit to the United States for a campaign called #GoodIsWinning.
I'm not Catholic and I've never paid much attention to past popes, but I've been mesmerized by how Pope Francis has built bridges between communities, continually puts others before himself, and lives humbly.
The goal for this campaign wasn't to make more people Catholic, to prove anybody right or wrong, or to push religion. The goal of this campaign was to talk about how much hope and good there is in the world.
As a part of this campaign I invited my followers to become a part of this historic event as well and they responded incredibly. (See theoriginal post here.) Of the hundreds of people who entered for an opportunity to cover the Pope's visit, @connortd, @ayanah, @plusjames, @slowjam98, & @yonathanmoya were a few of the incredibly talented finalists selected.
We used Snapchat, Instagram, Vine, and Twitter to tell stories of the Pope's visit to the United States and the ways that we see good winning in the world.
Here's a documentary Elite Daily made about this campaign:
New York City
Strangers Dancing in NYC
Trying to Catch my Train
I read about her in TIME. I heard about her during Pope Is Hope planning meetings. I listened to someone quote her on the radio. I heard someone passing by on the street say that she’s the Mother Theresa of Philadelphia.
In the late 1970’s a young nun named Mary began her work advocating for the homeless in her city. Time and time again she would say, “None of us are home until all of us are home.” Within two decades she’d reduced the number of people sleeping on the streets in Philly to less than 200.
She founded an incredible program called Project H.O.M.E. that’s so successful that it's become a model for dozens of other cities in the United States. More than 95% of the people who cycle through the doors of Project H.O.M.E. have never returned to life on the streets.
Here’s an excerpt of TIME’s article about her: "When Jon Bon Jovi (a loyal Project supporter) described Mary to the press as a nun "who swears and spits," the good sister merely replied, "I do not spit" — and then returned to her work of tirelessly saving her city, one desperate citizen at a time.”"
Sister Mary is a legend. She believes she can completely end homelessness in Philadelphia. Pope Francis believes her, and spent some time alone with her during his stay in town— commending her for the incredible work she’s doing.
An art piece so beautiful and meaningful that Pope Francis couldn’t help but visit. That’s what Meg Saligman created.
A large wooden grotto was built just feet from the Basilica where Pope Francis would celebrate his first Mass in Philadelphia.
Passersby had the opportunity to share a personal struggle on a piece of fabric and knot it into the grotto. After doing so, they were encouraged to untie someone else’s struggle, walk a few feet with their struggle, then weave it into the grotto. As more and more struggles are weaved into the grotto, it became stronger. The struggles aren’t neat, but somehow they come together to make something special.
I had the opportunity to photograph Meg Saligman interacting with her art during a quiet moment at the end of the weekend.
I met Cheryl Anne on my last day in Philly. I wish I’d met her earlier. The more we talked, the more inspired I became.
Within a few years— at a young age, Cheryl Anne lost both her parents and became situationally homeless— needing to bounce around between different people’s couches. For years it was difficult to continue her education and keep a steady job.
Social services couldn’t help her. She ended up in a program for homeless youth, which referred her to another program, which in turn, finally, brought her to Sister Mary’s Project H.O.M.E. She was one of the first teenagers included in Project H.O.M.E.
Since joining Project H.O.M.E., Cheryl Anne has been able to jump back into school, land an amazing job, and connect with an incredibly influential mentor. When she graduates, she plans on continuing her education to become a lawyer.
Cheryl Anne has quickly became a model for how this program can turn a life around. So much so that she’s become friends with Jon Bon Jovi— a huge supporter. She was so excited to share this photo of Jon Bon Jovi giving her a kiss.
During our time together, I couldn’t help but tell Cheryl Anne how much she inspired me and how impressive she is. She continued to humbly share more of her story and how she plans to use her story to help others in her situation she found herself in. She says that though her life has been filled with pain and difficulty, it’s been so worth it for the opportunity to inspire others.