Today is PhillyChitChat.com’s 8th Anniversary, my anniversary, the anniversary of me finding myself after starting this blog. (I don’t do these write ups every year, but in the past 3 years “I’ve become an overnight success,” people tell me.) People ask me how I took a hobby (with no journalism background, and as a self taught photographer) and created a successful business. It’s definitely about hard work, making sacrifices, being honest, being credible and finding a niche; Be consistent. Be patient. Be grateful. Be professional, be on time. Compete only with yourself. Don’t worry what others are doing, keep your ego in check. We’re all doing great things, and mean well at least that’s what we all think, so an ego is not going to help you. Listen, be open to advice and love what you do.
In 2007 I’d just returned from an 18 month assignment in Manhattan, where I worked 12 hr days, and at night I photographed celebrities chronicling my nights on a blog “Confessions of a Paparazzi.” A hobby I picked up after being in NYC after 6 months. I met a lot of great people during my nocturnal outings, and still made it into work on time the next day with entertaining stories, and predictions on which photos they’ll probably see online that day and in the magazines the following week. At that time there really was only Perez Hilton, Just Jared, and Gawker on the celebrity beat, and eventually my blog started to pick up steam especially after I broke several stories including the fight that led to Reese Witherspoon leaving Ryan Phillipe at “COP: Flags of our Father.” (I cringe with my early writing and photos.) The story was picked up by MTV, CNN and TMZ and my blog took off.
Fast forward. I returned to Philly, my blog entries slowed down, thinking that that blog thing was just a thing I let it die down there were no confessions to make anymore. Some time in the spring my friend Greta Greenberger introduced me to Phyllis Halpern who introduced me to Thom Cardwell which lead to me chronicling the 2007 Spring Phila Film Festival, and the giant within was awoken. Then on 07/07/07 I founded PhillyChitChat, which reflected more of what I wanted to cover, random happenings in Philly, things that weren’t making the newspaper, but I wanted to know the answers to, thought maybe others would too.
My first entry on 07/07/07 was about the Live Earth Concert taking place that day, two years after Live 8. It was just an entry marking the monumental day, and the noteworthiness and the concert two years before in Philadelphia. A very controversial concert. A concert that drew at least a million people to watch the all day, charitable concert. A concert where roads were closed, and there was a large swath of “no driving” areas along the Parkway. Kinda reminds me of the #PopeInPhilly fall mass.
Rounding out the week was more fun random stories like when the Comcast Building topped off their building with a small statue of William Penn lent to the builders by City Hall Tour Director Greta Greenberger. They told her she’d get it back, she never did, and the next year the Phillies won a World Series.
On my blog that day I talked about how we both got those tiny William Penn statues, I still have mine.
I would still shoot celebrity events here and in NYC (traveling twice a week to NYC to shoot movie premieres and who’s eating at what restaurant.) I knew I was the first “paparazzi” in Philly, I had a plan, and I set it into play. I was a huge fan of Dan Gross’ and Michael Klein‘s. They both ran photos in their columns.
Dan published my first celeb shot in a Philly newspaper, in May 2007 of Vince Fumo meeting Angie Everhart at a movie screening. I noticed he had a red string around his wrist. Dan called and asked him about it. It was a good hook to go with the photo (so funny though when the photo ran in the paper the editor cut off the wrist with the red bracelet; as much as it drove me crazy I was published and within 3 months of me moving back from NYC.) (My advice, see your future, offer something that no one else is offering, and doors will open.) I thought well this is it, it’s gonna be a daily occurrence, it wasn’t and it was because Dan didn’t always get a photo with his column due to space, and his angle wasn’t always how I was seeing things.
|My first photo published in Michael Klein’s Column)
A few months later I met Michael Klein (now the food guru columnist at Philly.com), at the time also had the #1 “gossip” column in the Inquirer, a paper I read all my life and one that I really desired to get published in, of course I always thought it would be in the business section of “people on the move”. He knew who I was, and in my 30 second elevator conversation I convinced him I could deliver photos no one else could; and I did just that for nearly 4 years (All the while while I worked as a paralegal.)
Even though these stories are not about PhillyChitChat.com, it’s important to the PCC story. I wanted my brand to be everything, I knew I had to be bigger than my blog, make a name for myself and the traffic would come to my blog where I was writing about charities, most of the events I covered were charities. That was the bottom line for me, at least 3 entries a week had to be a charity.
In December 2007, while returning from a party, I saw a car had driven thru Rittenhouse Square and ended up near the Christmas Tree. The gal was drunk and wanted help pushing the car out of the square, even as the police were approaching her car. I called the newspaper desk to see if they wanted the story. They asked me was anyone dead? Any blood? When I said no, they said we don’t want it. Then I thought I want it, and I was right. It was a huge story on my blog the next day. Either people saw it happen, or they wanted to know about it happening.
I saw another niche that needed to be covered, and it was great. (These days I do put a lot of those one photo stories on my Social Media, as I have so much content. And for the big breaking stories I do get source credit, definitely something I was vying for as I feel Twitter is a newsfeed.)
Michael Klein introduced me to Nicole Cashman in Dec 2007 and that was another major milestone; I could never get her attention or invites to her parties, and I knew it was essential to what I wanted to do. I photographed the opening of G Lounge, getting a photo that was for Michael Klein, and then the next day I would write about the party in detail, but not use the photo that ran in the Klein column. (These days I still practice that rule, but now I have to beg the PR not to tweet out the “money shot” too so the photo can get the first look in the press.)
In the Spring of 2008, Philly Style Magazine was relaunch and life got glamorous i
n Philly (Click in link to see a conservative dressed Big Rube), well glamorous for Philly; the City and glamour has never looked back. If the first year didn’t bring me blockbuster readers as it’s hard to build up a following, after I met Sabrina Tamburino
and her “socialites” as I called them, my readership quadrupled. Love them or hate them, at the time Paris Hilton reigned queen of the tabloids and I was going to take advantage of Philly’s desire to be an insider at these parties, to see what these girls were up to, where they were going and what they were doing; they were the scene; My readers knew about the parties/events/happening I covered the next day, they didn’t have to wait a month for the magazine’s to publish the photos, or wait a week until the Philly Inquirer published their society column with only the top tiered of society; I knew people would be excited to know “What happened last night”, so I set out to publish every day, and I successfully did this for 5 years before I missed days last year as I was publishing on other outlets. (This time period was before Instagram, and even before FB and Twitter became mainstream.)
Pat the Bat, Monica Malpass, GN Kang were some of the names that would show up at the hottest parties in Philly, usually thrown by Philly Style Magazine. I felt like they were Philly’s celebrities, so I made sure to photograph them. If you were in sports, or a standout in the media I wanted your photo, I knew that you had an audience interested in you. No doubt shooting “celebrities” and the celebrity culture in NYC helped me form my philosophy.
Going forward from this party it seemed that Cashman would have an event every other week, then every week, there were trunk shows, store pop-ups, new apt buildings, menu changing parties, I would photograph them and then it seemed as if other people noticed that people would go out every night for a “party”, even Monday night. So that’s the beginning of PhillyChitChat. I had a vision, I made a plan, it was fluid, I saw opportunities, and being innately curious about life, my blog worked, and my niche was everything about nothing fit to print at the time. I remember someone in the media saying to me, why do you cover these nobodies. I said they are someone, they have friends, families and everyone likes their pictures taken, as well as be a fly on the wall.
A few years later I was laid off from my paralegal job 12/31/10, I collected unemployment for 3 months deciding what I would do. My now hubby Mike said why don’t you try and make money doing what you love. So I told my readers I would be going into the event photography business, but still cover the events just as if they weren’t hired. I would also have paid advertisements. I would still be doing charity events, and since that time I do pro-bono for 5 charities. These days with Twitter I expose hundreds of charities to my readers pro-bono. After a few months Fox 29 offered me a gig, and I returned to Philly Mag, which I had left 9 months earlier when I was still employed and it had become too much. Today I have columns in PhillyMag, Philly.com, Philly Business Journal. My “celebrity” photos run regularly in Philly Daily News. Liberty City Press, Phila Metro and can be heard on 95.7BenFm. And I have blog, which I love and am so glad I never gave up. Here are a few of my favorite photos and columns.
It’s called PhillyChitChat, so I chat about a lot of different subjects. Food, New Retail, new branding, who’s wearing what, who said what and these days who posted what.
I went to a Clay Aiken concert and discovered hundreds fans’ cars adorn with his name and face.
(2007) I was excited when Philebrity wrote a piece on it. I always appreciated that Joey Sweeney understood what I was doing, I might be chitchating about Philly on my blog, but I was also giving space to charity events that weren’t always getting written about other places, in 2007 the explosion of blogs hadn’t happened yet, that came about 2010. There was a few times I had the chance to meet Joey, and I explained I might be covering the people your blog makes fun of, but the bottom line is I need the readership because who knows which contribution is going to touch a life and make a difference. Now one in awhile I’m the target of Philebrity, but it’s all good cause I can be a bit crazy, and my passions sometimes get amplified or misplaced. (These are true confessions here that I’ve never written. My advice is to reach out to peers and those you admire in hopes of getting guidance. Mentors are good.)
This was one of the most epic parties of the last decade. (2008)
I’ve met a lot of good friends in the course of running PhillyChitChat, and I’ve eaten a lot of good food. (2009)
I have fun writing about my observations and the curiosity of life. Now I know why the bark is missing from the bottom of the trees at Washington Square Park.
This was pretty random. JLo came to Philly to shoot ads for her new line of clothes to be sold at Kohls. When I first got the tip I was a bit skeptical. But then I saw other paps there and I knew it was a good one. I wasn’t able to get a great shot of her, but was able to still talk about the event on Fox 29,
Thankfully they never charged the guy, as it was an accident, which I
couldn’t tell the night I filmed it. One thing that did change is they
don’t let cars up there after a certain hour, sorry my bad.
Thanks to Twitter and Instagram they too are “PhillyChitChat” in a way. I consider them all part of the blog, even though I don’t always put the “product” on my blog. Here’s a photo that went viral December 2013, It was retweeted and featured on several local media outlets as well as GMA, CNN and Fox national. It’s great to get viral shots and videos cause you will get readers, especially if you are consistently getting stories that others are not. Nowadays there are a lot of citizen journalist, and it’s fun to see when one of them gets a viral story.
Yes those were my photos you saw of Katy Perry at the “Rocky Steps”. I live for my celebrity shots in Philly. It’s summer now, I am on the prowl for celebrities as the “social” season winds down.
Recently I photographed the Beast on the steps. I really did think it over before I 1) took his photo 2) published it 3) thinking was I invading his privacy. – I didn’t think so as there are street photographers all over the world shooting random fashion w/o asking. I felt I was shooting someone who was very serious about their workout, especially those elevated burpees. I did think it would be picked up by say philebrity, but I didn’t think it would go viral, even nationally as it di. I was happy that I even today I can see something that I thought others would find it interesting too.
I still like to chat about “gossipy” things, and I love to peruse everyone’s social media pics and pages pulling out the most interesting things.
In today’s Daily News there’s a photo of Edie Windsor and Wanda Sykes I
took at Saturday’s 50th Anniversary of the equality protesters cocktail party. The part about Edie wearing her late wife’s engagement ring as a
broach came from my friends FB page, as Edie had told her about it.
My dad always joked and called me Hedda Hopper (gossip columnist in the 40s/50s), and I was once warned about gossiping too much at work. In the end I think I found my calling.
Thanks to Mike Toub for his years of support and encouragement, to Simon Curtis for coming up with the name and for all my friends who bare with me when i don’t have time for them.