Thursday, November 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Ready or Not

Waiting for a Cartier-Bresson-moment

Ready or Not

I was drinking my coffee - unsweetened - at 16th & JFK after covering the noon rally outside City Hall to protest the proposed tax on sugared beverages. I looked down at the Lifelines sculpture by Barbara Grygutis in the underground Suburban Station plaza and saw a patch of reflected sunlight - with someone standing right in it!!!  Not beleiving my eyes, I clicked off a quick frame frame and then moved over a few feet for a better composition - and the woman, still on her cell phone, turned and moved right toward the light. I almost froze in utter amazement.

Not that it was that big a deal, and the picture's not all that great, but it did happen right before my eyes, when I wasn't even waiting for it.

Over the decades I have probably wasted a few months worth of time waiting for something-to-enter-my-frame. Even when I'm shooting a building exterior - a real estate photo, I can't just shoot it from the front seat of my car. No, I have to get out, park a few blocks away, then stand around trying to be inconspicuous while I wait for a pigeon, bicyclist, umbrella-carrier, or hat-wearer to walk between me and the building. Can't just take a picture, it's gotta be some sort of Henri Cartier-Bresson-moment (although his guy would be jumping a puddle or carrying a bottle of wine or a baguette).


The day before I was along the Ben Franklin Parkway, along the construction "fence" at the site of the new Barnes Museum. They've decorated it with photographs of some of the Barnes collection's greatest impressionist paintings. I was staking out a grouping of Renoirs and a Cézanne waiting for, oh, I don't know, maybe a Young Mother - to pass by. Or a Small Nude with Roses, carrying some Strawberries and Almonds or an Apple and Pear. Perhaps on their way to Noirmoutier.

Nothing close (however, years ago as I was waiting next to a spring flower bed by the fountain in LOVE Park, a woman actually did walk past with Claude Monet's Lily on her umbrella).

And the day before that, it was the parking lot snow piles...

Tom Gralish Inquirer Staff Photographer
About this blog

Tom Gralish is a general assignment photographer at The Inquirer, concentrating on local news and self-generated feature photos.

He has been at the paper since 1983, photographing everything from revolution in the Philippines to George W. Bush’s road to the White House to homeless people living on the street right outside his newspaper's front door. For his photo essay on Philadelphia’s homeless, he was awarded both the Pulitzer Prize and the Robert F. Kennedy Award.

His weekly newspaper column, "Scene Through the Lens," takes a look at Philadelphia's urban landscape.

Gralish, along with Inquirer colleague and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Michael Vitez, spent a year visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art to capture the stories and photos of "Rocky runners" who come from all over the world to climb the steps - just as Sylvester Stallone did in the Academy Award winning film, Rocky. Their book, Rocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope and Happiness at America’s Most Famous Steps, was published in November 2006.

Reach Tom at

Tom Gralish Inquirer Staff Photographer
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