An AP photographer snags an unexpected image of the head of the Catholic Church

Associated Press photographer Andrew Medichini has covered the Vatican and three popes for 27 years

Andrew Medichini
Sunday 24 March 2024 14:59 GMT
Italy One Extraordinary Photo Pope
Italy One Extraordinary Photo Pope (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Having covered the Vatican for 27 years — that’s three popes — Associated Press photographer Andrew Medichini has mastered snapping images of papal pomp.

To capture this photo, Medichini knew exactly where to position himself based on the wind for a potential candid shot of Pope Francis.

Here is what he said about making this extraordinary photo:

Why this photo

After several years following popes in and out of the Vatican, you get to know where to be and how to anticipate the right frame according to the news or the conditions of the day — windy, sunny, rainy, etc.

The day I took this photo was rather quiet, no big names meeting the pope, no particular weather conditions. So, I decided to go to the spot where he enters St. Peter’s Square in the car and gets relatively close to me — and where there is always some wind channeled from the arch he drives through. I was lucky, his cap flew and, just at the right moment, he tried to catch it.

How I made this photo

The photo was taken from the first of the steps that lead to the churchyard at the entrance of St. Peter’s Basilica, where I had a clearer view over the heads of the pope’s security guards with a 600mm lens from a distance of around 40-50 meters.

It was then cropped in Photoshop, as the picture was still quite wide with distracting elements in it. The camera was set to one of its highest frames-per-second speeds. From experience, I know that if something happens it will likely be in a fraction of a second. That’s what happened in this case; I only got two shots and one was good.

Why this photo works

I believe it works because it shows an intimate and normal gesture by one of the most known people in the world. It’s so different from the formal meeting photos or the more ritual moments during ceremonies. For that split second, he’s like any person trying to catch their hat as it’s blown away by wind.


For more extraordinary AP photography, click here.

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