Unlike my other colleagues in the photo department, I didn’t take a single picture this past week, as I was filling in as an editor. But I’ll share my observations as if it was a regular week and retread some old work.
I have been doubly fortunate. Not only am I still healthy, and I’m still working through the pandemic, but I am still getting out and still seeing new and different things every day. But this week, I was tied to a desk more than usual. Actually, I did see new things. Four or five times a day, I participated in my first real Zoom meetings. Our photo department has had them since mid-March, but they have always been on our phones, while we photographers were in our cars. I was often even driving, so I usually had the video turned off and just listened.
So this week working on my laptop at home, I finally caught up on what has been the norm for others for months, and saw the little Brady Bunch–style video windows. The novelty has long worn off for most of the other editors: The other small faces all looked totally accustomed to the venue. Most seemed totally oblivious to the other Bradys around them. But it was all new for me. A few used nice lighting, or the backgrounds I’ve read about — virtually transporting themselves to an autumn forest or to the range where the deer and the buffalo roam.
None seemed to be acting like me — like Narcissus from Greek mythology, who couldn’t stop looking at his own face reflected in the water. I fiddled with the buttons — carefully avoiding the “unmute” — until I discovered you can “Hide Self View” and turn yourself off, while the others (“…they knew that it was much more than a hunch”) could still see you.
All in all, the week was a good experience. Every worker bee should see what it’s like to sit in their editor’s seat (in front of a screen all day) for a while. It’s educational (I learned about four new Slack channels), enlightening (I discovered just how many questions we photographers have each and every day), humbling (spending many minutes trying to locate photos or files that others were able to find in seconds), and even satisfying (representing and speaking up for photographers).
I also spent some time this week looking over The Inquirer’s photo coverage of the events following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and thinking of previous major news stories here. I pictured the images that stood out in the history of this city, both positive and negative, events like the MOVE bombing, World Series, papal visit, Super Bowl, or National Conventions and wondered about this story. What pictures will Philadelphians remember decades from now?
Two come to mind: One by Heather Khalifa made while police cruisers burned between City Hall and the Municipal Services Building on the first day of protests, May 30.
The other, two days later, by Jessica Griffin, of protesters in the canyon of I-676 as they were tear-gassed by the police.
And a favorite photo of my own from this turbulent time? The one at the very top, showing how much Americans’ views have changed on race and criminal justice issues. Over the last two weeks, according to one recent online survey, support for Black Lives Matter has increased by nearly as much as it had over the previous two years.
Since 1998, a black-and-white photo has appeared every Monday in staff photographer Tom Gralish’s photo column in The Inquirer’s local news section. Here are the most recent, in color: