Houston shelters Katrina evacuees, 2005

After Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans and much of the Gulf coast in 2005, I went to Houston to photograph efforts to shelter evacuees in the Astrodome and adjoining convention center.

Provided with food and water, clean clothing and a chance to shower, everybody looked pretty good but the most frightening problem they faced was separation from loved ones, as very few people had mobile phones or social media accounts at the time.

Home phones were gone with the homes that had been destroyed and extended families from poor neighborhoods knew they would have no place to gather and find each other. With no better option, many were making posters seeking each other but had no contact information to share.

I am hoping that digital homes on Facebook and other platforms will be more helpful getting people reconnected this time. But I am also wondering what other new technologies could help.

Click on any photo below to scroll through the slide show. There are some additional photos on my other site.

Eclipsed in Philadelphia


I dropped by Dilworth Plaza just as the first eclipse of the social media generation was reaching it’s peak here in Center City Philadelphia today.

Before I left, I grabbed this angle looking past the statue of William Penn atop Philadelphia City Hall.

Thousands of people were out, many with eclipse glasses, homemade viewers, cameras, telescopes and contraptions of all sorts. I spotted this group grabbing a selfie.

Rizzo mural defaced, 1999

The Frank Rizzo mural in South Philadelphia has been vandalized for so long that I was still shooting film when I made these pictures as police were investigating an incident near the end of the last millennium.

According to my caption written that day in October, 1999: “It appeared that light bulbs, bottles, and Christmas ornaments full of paint were thrown at the mural.”

Rizzo was the mayor of the Philadelphia through most of the 1970s, had previously been police commissioner for about four years and his reign seems to have been remembered very differently by some groups than others.

Rizzo died while running for mayor once again in 1991, just a few months before I moved to Philadelphia but neither side can let him go, even though two-thirds of today’s residents were not yet born when he was first elected.

Recent local and national events have raised the question once again this week about what this mural — as well as a Frank Rizzo statue near city hall — mean to Philadelphians and if they should be removed.

But what if instead of focusing on symbolism, we could actually address the constantly simmering, sometimes steaming relationship between police and communities in Philadelphia?

Instead of endlessly investigating each other, defending themselves, vandalizing public art and arresting suspects, what if everyone could just sit down and agree to listen to each other for once?

Why can’t we focus on peacemaking instead of exacerbating a conflict which won’t be resolved with paint, eggs or handcuffs or by preserving, tearing down or compromising on depictions of a mayor who was born nearly 100 years ago?

I have never walked the walk of a police officer nor suffered police brutality, but my career in photojournalism offered me a pretty good look at both groups and it strikes me as idiotic to think that stirring the pot with no strategy for outcomes will lead us anywhere we want to go.

Most of us want peace. But we better get to work before someone gets hurt.

Vigil for Charlottesville

There have been several gatherings in Philadelphia since last week’s violence in Charlottesville. I caught this overhead look at a candlelight vigil Sunday night on Thomas Paine Plaza.

More Dilworth reflections

I have been having more fun lately with the reflections created just after they turn off the fountains on Dilworth Park, in front of Philadelphia City Hall:

The Clothespin reflects in water left by the fountains on Dilworth Park at Philadelphia City Hall just now:

A post shared by Jim MacMillan (@jimmacmillan) on

The reflections were almost perfect on Dilworth Park, outside Philadelphia City Hall earlier this evening:

A post shared by Jim MacMillan (@jimmacmillan) on

The Dilworth Park fountains were set on high when we walked through Monday evening:

A post shared by Jim MacMillan (@jimmacmillan) on

Bailing out, 2004

U.S. Army soldiers bail out after their Bradley fighting vehicle was disabled by a roadside bomb during a major incursion into the Sadr City section of Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2004. Nobody was seriously injured but fuel was gushing from a ruptured tank after the blast and they had to take shelter inside a nearby building until more vehicles arrived.