HughE Dillon needs no introduction in Philly. If there’s something noteworthy happening here, chances are he’s already on the scene or has already published a post to his popular news and gossip site Philly Chit Chat, which celebrates its 10 year anniversary tomorrow at Aqimero.
“I don’t have any training in journalism or photography,” says the Fairmount resident. “But I can see what news is and write about what I think other people would be interested in.”
Over his career so far, he’s captured our blossoming city from every angle — getting photos of superstars like Dev Patel, Kevin Hart and Katy Perry while they're in town as well as documenting Philadelphia’s social scene in an inclusive way that just wasn’t done before, covering everything from over-the-top galas to neighborhood block parties.
“I’m the type of person who’s never going to be in the society section,” he says. “I wanted to photo everyone at events. You don’t have to be beautiful and you don’t have to be a big corporate sponsor.”
Before starting Philly Chit Chat, Dillon honed his skills in New York City, photographing celebrities for his first blog, Confessions of a Paparazzi, which launched in 2006.
“I was working as a paralegal in Philadelphia at the time,” he says. “I’d go into work at 7 a.m., finish at 3 p.m. and then travel to New York at night. Sometimes I didn’t sleep.”
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After traveling back and forth between the two cities for many years, he decided to create a website all about Philadelphia in 2007, showing the world just how vibrant the city was in terms of culture, entertainment and nightlife.
“I didn’t want to just write about Philly gossip, but everything going on here,” he remembers. “My friend Simon came up with the name Philly Chit Chat and I knew immediately that was it.”
All those years ago, however, Philly was a very different city and there weren’t that many events happening. Dillon would cover everything he could — from trunk shows to fundraisers to hanging out at Starr restaurants for photos of celebrities.
“No one’s star rose quicker than Stephen Starr,” says Dillon. “Somehow he was able to get the word out to A-listers at their hotels to come to his restaurants. Gwen Stefani, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson — I’ve gotten a lot of good photos of celebrities coming out of Starr restaurants.”
Don’t let all the glitz and glamor fool you, however. Dillon also uses his lens to give back to the community.
“When I started Philly Chit Chat, I saw there were so many people in need. I realized I could shine a little light on charities through my blog. I wanted to help people. I wasn’t looking for notoriety,” he says.
Tomorrow night, Dillon raises a toast to 10 years of Philly Chit Chat at the swanky Latin fusion restaurant Aqimero in the Ritz Carlton with a few hundred of his closest supporters. While the event is private, attendees are encouraged to make a $20 donation to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“I am so thankful to everyone who let me photograph them over the years to tell the story of Philadelphia,” he says.
For all the latest on Philly Chit Chat and Hugh Dillon, visit phillychitchat.com.