Sunday, October 4, 2015

What's that again? ...again.

shooting the same photos...again.

What's that again? ...again.


So, just a few days afer talking about repeating oneself, I find myself shooting another one:

The day after the U.S. Supreme Court rulings, I covered a rally by supporters of marriage equality at the New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton.

I know my editors always want a crowd shot, and you have to shoot the main speakers - here it is Barbara Buono, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate and state senator from Middlesex County - at any assignment with a group, including both sides of an issue, if present.

So getting that out of the way, I started scanning the faces, as I usually do at any kind of gathering. I never know exactly what I'm looking for, but mostly it's to personalize the crowd. Whether it's a political campaign stop, piano recital, parade, classroom, picnic or press event, I am looking for a face that jumps out at me. Not necessarily one to "represent' the group, or the most flamboyant (in fact I usually avoid them. I figure they probably already get enough attention) or not always the one holding the best sign (they usually always get on TV, or shot by those reporters armed with iPhones we hear so much about).

Sometimes I am just looking for juxtapositions: maybe one of those signs in right next to something else, that makes it read a way the writer never intended. Sometimes it's just composition that attracts my attention, like these guys, at a Flag Day commemoration at the Betsy Ross house:

In fact, when talking to camera clubs or photo students, someone invariably asks, "how do get up close enough to take their pictures?" Invariably I just tell them, "go to a political campaign stop, piano recital, parade, classroom, picnic or press event…"

But seriously, they do have a good point in asking the question, and that is one of the things that separates professional photojournalists from anyone else with a camera or iPhone: getting in close. It is difficult for most people to invade someone else's personal space and using telephoto lenses like lots of amateurs, for photos just don't have the same intimacy.

(I also tell camera clubs or photo students to take advantage of people they're relatively close to - friends and family - and practice getting really get in close to to them with your camera).

Getting back to the rally (and eventually the repeated photo) I spotted a young lady at the top of this post, with face paint and colorful eye makeup. Her slogan was simple, and pretty neutral.

So I shot a few frames with a long lens (70-200mm zoom, which is like a 105-300mm on my Nikon with the smaller DX sensor) before moving in closer.

At that point, the way I usually operate is to introduce myself, say I took a few photos, and then ask for the person's name, and if it's okay to be in the newspaper. Almost everyone says yes, and I say thanks, and they figure I'm done. Then I usually say "just forget I'm here," and start aiming my camera at the other people around them, until they do start to forget about me.

That's the point I usually end up getting my best photo, when I start taking a few more photos of them.

Variations of the "getting used to the camera" work with almost every situation faced by newspaper photographers. From portraits to the police.

Getting back to the repeated photo now. At left if a young man who was accidentally shot point blank by his best friend, playing with a loaded gun his older brother had hid in their home. I shot a lot of photos, of him and his mother and sisters, in his room when the reporter asked him to demonstrate where he and his friend were standing when the gun went off (the story is here).

The bullet went in the right side of the boy's face, across his sinus, and out the other side. It  bullet missed the brain by four or five millimeters. So, not like it's anything at all like the "No Hate" face painting this all started with, I had to get in close to show his wounds. Unlike the other face photo, this one had to be posed. I had to have the young man turn his face in the best orientation to the light to best show his exit wound, ending up with the first of two extremely tight closeups on faces in as many weeks.

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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