Tony Powell, 48, is a society, fashion and commercial photographer who documents Washington’s movers and shakers at galas, balls, private parties and other affairs. A father of four, Powell is a D.C. native. The photo is a self-portrait.
I don’t get invited to fancy parties or galas in Washington, but if I did, what are the chances that you’d be there as the official photographer?
Well, pretty good — either as the official photographer or hired by Washington Life, which is the premier social magazine in town. Initially it was the larger portion of what I did, but I now employ eight photographers and send them out when I can’t do everything.
Who are some of the favorite people you’ve met because of the job?
I’ll tell you, I have different political views, but I really enjoy some of the president’s Cabinet. I’m around them on a regular basis. Especially Wilbur Ross and Hilary Ross. Especially the Mnuchins. They are just wonderful people. David and Katherine Bradley are people I love working with. They are two of the wealthiest people in town, but also the kindest people. And also the Allbrittons, who own Politico. They’re my very good friends.
Well, not everyone is a gem. What’s the most unpleasant experience you’ve had as a photographer?
Senator Amy Klobuchar came to my rescue one night. One of the guys from “Duck Dynasty” was in town, and he wasn’t so kind to me. He thought that I was some paparazzo. And so Senator Klobuchar came to my rescue. Sometimes some big Hollywood celebrities are not the kindest.
You took a selfie with Pope Francis.
That’s probably one of the greatest things that has ever happened in my entire life. Because I was raised Catholic. I’m now Buddhist, but the Archdiocese of Washington hired me as his photographer when he came to Washington. I was with the pope the whole day, and it was life-changing. That was a selfie where I was thinking, Oh, my God, do I do this or not? And then I just decided, What the hell? I had no idea that there was a live CNN video feed on me when I did it. I took the selfie, and 10 seconds later my phone blows up with friend after friend after friend texting and calling me.
What did the pope do?
He just smiled. He was very kind. And that was a real highlight of my career to have a picture with the Holy Father.
When you look back, are there big moments in your career where you think, Wow, I can’t believe that I did that?
Oh my gosh, so many. It’s like I’m a child in a candy store. And it’s just so much fun. I tell my children: If you can find a job that you would do for free, then you will never have to do a day’s work in your life. And I love working with the great celebrities. I just love it. I feel like a celebrity myself sometimes.
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