Event: Global Citizens Festival


Some of the Global Citizen Festival Crowd

So, what’s it like to go from a backyard show in Asbury Park with about 30 people….to an event in Central Park with more than 60,000 people?

Not that different, actually. I still had to search for a good shot, still had to get the camera in a new place. The 70-200mm lens I rented certainly helped at the festival though. Probably wouldn’t have been used in that Asbury Park backyard.

The Global Citizen Festival on September 23 was the culmination of Global Citizen Week in New York. Johnson & Johnson was a major sponsor of this event, which afforded me some pretty good access at the event. Not great – nothing backstage (though VIP tent), but still pretty darn good.

The main goal was to capture J&J employees and our Donate A Photo booth to show the extent that we were present there. But first thing first.

The festival was on Saturday, September 23. The Friday before, I was in New Brunswick, shooting some portraits of the young ambassadors I spoke about earlier in this week. Did some general coverage, but also worked on some portraits, too.



Even caught Kevin, our videographer, in an environmental portrait at the J&J Museum.


From New Brunswick, we headed back to the JW Marriott Essex Hotel in New York City.

Saturday dawned sunny and hot. I stepped out early to hit up a deli for an egg wrap and Diet Coke. Grabbed a quick street shot with my phone.


Popped back into the hotel and finished pulling my gear together. I knew it would be a good 12-hour day, so I wanted to be prepared. Here’s what I went with.


  • Cannon 70D
  • 17-85 Canon lens
  • 24-105 Canon lens
  • 70-200mm Canon lens (rented from borrowlenses.com)
  • Canon SX610 HS point-and-shoot (that I had delivered to the hotel the day before)
  • Fuji X100T
  • Nikon AF film camera
  • 430EX Canon Speedlight
  • One tripod
  • Flo

I was chancing it with one main DSLR body but I had no choice in this instance. If that bonked on me, I’d have been up the creek (though I did have my Fuji X100t in the bag – just no zoom capabilities.)

So, Kevin and I set out by cab for Central Park South around 11:30 a.m., and headed to where  we were supposed to meet our contacts. They would help us to get us our media credentials and show us the lay of the land.

We got to the spot outside Central Park by 11:45 am. It was almost 90 degrees already. Then we waited. And waited. And waited.  Finally around 1 p.m. we met up with who we were supposed to.

The Global Citizen Festival is much like any other festival with bands, I’m sure, though I have no experience with that. Lots of activity, lots of commotion, gear, and people. A palpable buzz.

Exciting, frankly.

Once we got the lay of the land and figured out where our wristbands would let us go and not go, we just had to cool our heels for a few hours.


A pre-show shot from one of the pens. I’d have access up to that first set of gates by the stage.

My pre-show goal was to to grab shots of J&J employees at the Donate-A-Photo booth, other general employee-and-executive shots and the very much needed “Sea of Red” shot, just like I would get at the TriRock Triathlon (all the employees there in their red shirts.)

[As an aside, and speaking earlier of the J&J Museum…I saw that my Sea of Red shot from 2016 is part of the museum now. How cool is that?]

Finally, the show started with the New York mayor, Bill de Blasio kicking things off.


Then the guys from Shark Tank and comedian/actor (and New Jersey guy) Kal Penn took over to introduce the first act.

Cuban_Kal Penn_092317_MG_1760

Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary (Mr. Wonderful), Kal Penn

The first act, Aleissa Cara, kicked things off from a musical perspective.

Alessia Cara_mkrajnak_092317_MG_1770

I didn’t get a chance to shoot every musical act because, again, my first role was to be getting the corporate images that the teams would immediately push out on social media and use later. But here’s a few other favorites from the the day

One of the main headliners was the American punk band Green Day, a band I’ve been listening to since their first release back in the early 1990s.

Mike Dintz_Green Dayt_092317_DSCF2198

Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt, in the VIP tent


Billie Joe_Global Citizen_mkrajnak_092317_MG_2289

Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day

Billie Joe Armstrong_092317_MG_2227

Same guy, different guitar

Green Day_global citizen_092317_MG_2423

Mike Dirnt, Billie Joe Armstrong, Tre Cool

Stevie Wonder was the final act, and the main headliner. By that time, it was about 9 p.m. I was in the back of house getting some of the corporate shots I needed. The crowd had surged forward when Stevie came on, so I wasn’t in a position to get back in there and shoot him. Maybe I should have.


But, I didn’t. When I had a moment, though, I decided to shoot the crowd. So I walked to the perimeter of one of the pens, and see what I can see. It was pretty awesome.

White, Black, Asian, Latino…everyone was dancing and singing along with Stevie. Whatever else was going on that weekend…peaceful protests against injustice (not the American flag, please note), hurricane devastation in a number of places, crazy tweet storms from government officials….these folks here were just caught up in the music. Didn’t matter they weren’t super close to the stage. Sound carries.

This one gentleman caught my eye. He just seemed so content and happy to be there, listening. He saw me shooting and gave me the thumbs up. Think I’m going to remember him for a long time.

Stevie fan_cap_092317_DSCF2253

And that’s what this day was all about: Raising awareness about global community issues, learning more about these issue and some great music. More than 60,000 people came together. I’m sure many were there for the musical acts, but they also left with a better understanding of the humanitarian issues that still need our focus.

I’m still adding to the final folder, but you can see more images from Global Citizen Festival 2017 by clicking here.

By the time I got back to the hotel around midnight, my day was over. I got the corporate shots I absolutely had to get, and I got some for me, too. Win-win.

Thanks to J&J for hiring me for the Global Citizen gigs this week, especially Jacob Lepiarz.

That culminated a pretty busy week for me. I learned a lot, I think I made some nice images and my awareness for a number of these issues were raised to. Click any of the links in the past few posts to learn more about these organizations and how you can help.

© Mark V. Krajnak | JerseyStyle Photography | All Rights Reserved 2017

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