Love Is the Message

Celebrated documentary photographer Jamel Shabazz’s Love Is the Message pays tribute to African American veterans and their families.

artist Jamel Shabazz

Artist Jamel Shabazz photographs veterans and their families in Vernon Park on Memorial Day, 2017. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • location Vernon Park
  • Neighborhood

    Germantown / Chestnut Hill

  • completion date

    November 20, 2017

About the Project 

Celebrated documentary photographer Jamel Shabazz’s Love Is the Message pays tribute to African American veterans and their families against the backdrop of Germantown’s historic Vernon Park. Shabazz, a US military veteran, served alongside men from Philadelphia when he served abroad in the 1970s and had long planned a tribute to their service, style, and resilience. Through collaborations with partners including Friends of Vernon Park, the Aces Museum, the Black Writers Museum, and iMPeRFeCT Gallery, among others, Shabazz’s portraits of veterans and neighborhood residents are featured on a mural near Vernon Park on Germantown Avenue. The mural is modeled after a keepsake photo frame, and features select images of veterans and residents alongside monumental figures and artworks in the neighborhood. From Memorial Day to Veterans Day in 2017, Shabazz conducted several pop-up photo sessions welcoming veterans, neighborhood residents, and other visitors for free printed portraits. Although the mural is temporary, it will remain installed for the year following the Monument Lab exhibition.

Love is the Message by Jamel Shabazz. Photo by Steve Weinik.


Lead Monument Lab partners include the City of Philadelphia; Philadelphia Parks & Recreation; Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy; Historic Philadelphia; Independence National Historic Park; Penn Institute for Urban Research; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; Price Lab for Digital Humanities; and the University of Pennsylvania.

Major support for Monument Lab projects staged in Philadelphia’s five squares has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

An expanded artist roster and projects at five neighborhood sites have been made possible by a significant grant from the William Penn Foundation.

Lead corporate sponsor is Bank of America.

Additional support has been provided by Susanna Lachs & Dean Adler, William & Debbie Becker, CLAWS Foundation, Comcast NBCUniversal, Davis Charitable Foundation, Hummingbird Foundation, J2 Design, National Endowment for the Arts, Nick & Dee Adams Charitable Fund, Parkway Corporation, PECO, Relief Communications LLC, Sonesta Philadelphia Rittenhouse Square, Stacey Spector & Ira Brind, Tiffany Tavarez, Tuttleman Family Foundation, Joe & Renee Zuritsky, and 432 Kickstarter backers. Support for Monument Lab‘s final publication provided by the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation.

City of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, The Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, Friends of Vernon Park, Historic Germantown, Aces Museum, Germantown United CDC, and iMPeRFeCT Gallery

Media partner: WHYY