Friday, July 31, 2015

Sign Me Up

Recent signage

Sign Me Up


Here's a color version of the B&W "Scene Through the Lens" photo in today's newspaper. Because I used a strobe on the reflective signs, it looks different in color.

I don't usually use "sign" photos in the column, because they seem too easy. Almost like taking a picture of a painting. Even with something else is going on in its proximity, it feels lazy.

I also avoid sign photos because they are literally "literal." As a visual person in a verbal world - newspapers - many times someone is looking for a photo that "says" something to go with a story. There are bonus points if you can get a picture with something - a sign perhaps? - that "reads" well.

A few weeks ago I was asked to shoot two different political signs, for two different congressional candidates, from two different political parties, planted in two different neighboring front yards. This was to illustrate a story for the upcoming mid-term election. The "story" was that there are two different candidates running for the same political office and that residents of the district - some of them even neighbors on the very same street - have different opinions about how they plan to vote.

Two years ago, I happened on a home with Obama & McCain campaign signs inches apart on the front lawn. Even with the American flag on the portico it didn't make a decent photograph (although, when the owners replied to the note I left for them, it did spark an interesting conversation).

So, maybe I'm a hypocrite.  I don't know why I liked this sign photo any more than some of the others I shoot but never use. Thinking about it made me look in the reject pile for a few sign photos from recent months. Here you go:

Inquirer Staff Photographer
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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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