Photographer Captures Iconic Image

October 1, 2015
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Pope Francis on his historic U.S. trip. “As a Catholic,” Gellman said, “being able to photograph the successor to St. Peter was really neat and a great honor.” Photo collage: Gary Gellman

Pope Francis on his historic U.S. trip. “As a Catholic,” Gellman said, “being able to photograph the successor to St. Peter was really neat and a great honor.” Photo collage: Gary Gellman

By John Burton

It was much more than another assignment for photographer Gary Gellman.

Gellman was in Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, on hand to photograph Pope Francis, capturing what posterity may eventually consider among the iconic images of the visit as well as allow him to get in touch with his spiritual side.

“As a Catholic,” Gellman said, “being able to photograph the successor to St. Peter was really neat and a great honor.” Gellman, a Howell-based still photographer and videographer, was provided access to the tarmac for the plane’s arrival in Philadelphia, and captured the image of Francis blessing the 10-year-old disabled boy in his wheelchair. That photograph has already been widely distributed and seen.

“It was very emotional,” Gellman offered.

“And to me as a Catholic to be that close to the leader of the our church and to know I was selected and blessed to be selected to be there, the signature event,” he explained, “it was a wonderful experience.”

Gellman has in the past photographed the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has taken portrait photos of Diocese of Trenton Bishop David M. O’Connell and knows Archbishop Charles Chaput, with Archdiocese of Philadelphia, who helped Gellman along the lengthy process of obtaining security clearance for the assignment. That process took the better part of 10 months, beginning last November, to secure security clearance to be a photographer for the World Meeting of Families event, according to Gellman.
“I like to say it was a 10 month process and a 27-year training period,” he said, referring to his time as a professional in his field.

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On the airport tarmac as the jet arrived and the pope and passengers disembarked, “It was something quite unique to be blessed to be so close,” with only about 200 people there and only a couple of photographers – “probably the smallest group surrounding the pope during his visit.”

At the time “I was in work mode,” concentrating on the assignment. “Until that one point,” with Pope Francis “coming down those steps, I realized where I was, what I was doing,” and it having a profound effect on him, he acknowledged.

Over the years, Gellman has photographed many, including such celebs as Anne Hathaway, Heidi Klum, Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi and many others, especially in his role as photographer for the New Jersey Hall of Fame. “I’ve met a lot of cool people, many are special in their own right.

“But this,” assignment, he stressed, “was one of a kind, really special.”

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