Author: rollfilm


Ghost Signs AKA Faded Ads

Ghost signs, also known as faded ads, those painted signs we’ve probably all seen, are those ads usually painted on the side of a brick building. They advertise such things as Omega Oil or Mail Pouch chewing tobacco. I fell in love with these signs years ago, that love affair coincided with my love of history. Whenever I see one I invariably pull over to photograph it. Here are some of my favorite ghost signs.

This ad for Owl Cigars was recently uncovered in Johnstown, PA.

Advertisement for Sinclair Oil is painted on corregated tin,  Cody, WY.

Harlem is home to a particularly good example of a well-preserved ghost sign for Omega Oil. Omega Oil was an all-purpose oil that probably amounted to no more than snake oil.

A ghost sign selling signs in Astoria, OR.

An old ad for Bull Durham Smoking Tobacco in Oakland, OR.

For more examples, visit my Instagram feed.





The Absence of Color

When I was learning how to shoot and edit video, I needed a really good story. Something interesting, fascinating, and close to home. I found that story in a young girl who is an exceptional artist.

I have a friend who has a daughter with a rare genetic disorder called Achromatopsia. As you may have guessed, this is a disorder of the eye where the affected person has no cones, only rods. You may remember from high school biology, rods in the eye are for seeing in the dark, in shades of gray. The video I produced is a short documentary about this young woman’s life and struggles.

We have become accustomed to seeing black and white photographs. The absence of color leaves much to the imagination: What color was that woman’s dress? His hair? That child’s eye? It is, for this reason, black and white photography can be very effective. There is a mysterious factor involved. If we want reality, we shoot in color. Color is for photojournalism, black and white engages the mind in other, more artistic ways.

A New York Surprise
Grandson of Devil Anse Hatfield, West Virginia
Taos Pueblo, New Mexico




Interesting People I’ve Met Along the way (Part 1)

Being a photographer offers many privileges, one of which is the fascinating people I get to meet along the way. I am breaking this into two parts (or more), as there are too many to put into one post.

In no particular order, I’ll start with Aaron Fletcher. Aaron is a homeless man in Ashland, Oregon who raises sheep and uses their milk for his diet and to sell. Aaron makes his living by bartering for places to sleep and helps with yard work and small chores, in addition to wool felting, wool spinning, cheesemaking.  He considers himself an eco-activist and has been promoting sheep’s milk since 2014. Aaron’s website is


The next person is The Russian. I was working on a self-promotion piece about cars and their owners, and I wanted to find someone with gold teeth for a particular car with an interesting grille. (Most of the promos featured the actual owner, this  one was the exception.) I found this gentleman and he spoke no English, but we managed to get something we were both happy with.


I met Machete Man in Ponce, Puerto  Rico while I was there last year shooting for FEMA. When I came upon him he was in the middle of the street, swinging this giant machete. Later on, I drove by, and he was seated in this chair and was happy to have his portrait taken.


Also while I was in Puerto Rico, I met a man selling bananas and other miscellaneous items.  The things that struck me were a) that bananas were overripe, and b) I loved the way his pants matched the bananas. He was happy to pose for me.


Lastly, for this installment, I have Chicken Man. This was shot during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. This gentleman was very concerned because the shelters would not allow him inside with his chickens. I assured him that I would do my best and see what I could do. Alas, chickens indeed were not allowed into the shelters, and he had to stay elsewhere.


Abandoned New York City


Every city has its quirky side, and New York is no exception. New York is chock-full of abandoned buildings and hidden gems. I am thrilled to announce the publication of my second book, Abandoned New York: City of Broken Dreams.

Abandoned New York City Book

This book is a compilation of my explores in New York and includes chapters about the Woolworth Building, the High Line, Ellis Island, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Domino Sugar Factory, and more.

My first book, Abandoned Northern Virginia, focused on my explorations closer to home. But, being a native New Yorker, this new book is even dearer to my heart.


The Mask Project


A lot of us became “strangers in a strange land” in the many months of the COVID pandemic. Lost at sea, we struggled to find a safe harbor, while trying to stay safe. This was no less true for artists and photographers. However, artists had an outlet: we could use this as an opportunity to get wildly creative. Many of us lost a lot of work, but that didn’t keep us from documenting what was there: a uniquely crazy situation we could make visual!

I started with the obvious and called it the Mask Project. And then it got fun. I started to interact with people, albeit for short periods of time, and then take those images home and make what I saw – shapes and patterns and personalities. I even took a selfie with my gas mask on.

I know many have lost friends and loved ones, as have I. I look forward to the day there is no more mask project.

Please feel free to visit the rest of my site, and check out my Instagram feed at rollfilm. Thanks!


Liz Roll Photography:

Servicing the corporate, healthcare, non-profit, political, and editorial communities




Why I shoot disasters

Phoenix, OR, January 11, 2021 — Damage from the September fires can still be seen here. Photo by Liz Roll

Disasters – such an odd thing to have such an interest in. Sounds macabre, but it’s anything but. My work for FEMA can be very intense – such as Hurricane Katrina or the days following Hurricane Sandy. But I know I am helping people, by showing the American people — and the powers that be in Washington — what has occurred here. How people are coping, or not coping. The extent of the damage. The tears and the triumphs. To photograph these events, it takes a certain balance between empathy and stoicism. Without enough empathy, I cannot feel their pain and get photos that reflect the proper emotion. Too much empathy, and I cannot function and do my job. It has taken me many years to get the right balance.

Right now, I am in Oregon shooting video of September’s fire aftermath. The people are all gone, there is not the emotion tug at my heartstrings. But I can only imagine what these folks went through, the damage is so extensive. Whole lives, burned up. It is still a tough job, but one that I love.

Phoenix, OR, January 11, 2021 — Hazmat teams From Oregon DOT conduct asbestos surveys prior to debris removal from the Almeda Fire of September 2020.

Announcing My New Web Site

I am so excited to share with you my new website. I used my Covid downtime to recreate the site to better showcase my skills as a portrait and people photographer, and give viewers like you a better sense of who I am. Since you are buying my creative eye, I think this will give you a good idea of how and what I  shoot.

These are two favorites. I love to shoot what I see in everyday life, some would call that “street photography”. The first photo is of a woman in a Havana salon getting her hair done under an old fashioned dryer. The second shot was in Central Park, New York, and I just happened to be crossing a bridge when I saw him. He looks very sad and lonely to me.

These two photos are from my disaster work for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The top photo depicts a woman who was rescued after she spent nine days in her attic following Hurricane Katrina. The bottom photograph is from Hurricane Sandy. I typically go on about one or two disasters per year. More on this in a future post!

Please visit the rest of my site, start wherever you like!



Abandoned Cuba

I visited Cuba for the second time in January. One of my objectives was to shoot abandoned buildings, as this is a favorite subject of mine. See some of the results here.


Remembering #Katrina10


Ten years ago, I remember watching the TV in my hotel in Florida as New Orleans was being swamped by Hurricane Katrina. Two days later I would drive through Mississippi, spend the night in my car loaded with three days of supplies, and finally arrive at Louis Armstrong International Airport. What I would find there will stay with me forever – triage areas, dozens of doctors and nurses caring for the injured, people being evacuated.

It was an incredible time of stress and sorrow and sometimes, joy, as I watched a woman get carried out of the floodwaters after being trapped in her attic for nine days. I had the opportunity to revisit New Orleans in July, and while I was glad to see the recovery that has happened, I also know there is a long way to go. I am hopeful that the next time a Katrina comes their way, we will all be better prepared.

Photos from 2005 here


Interview with Al Roker


I really enjoyed being interviewed and Al Roker and Stephanie Abrams! It will air Friday 8/28 on The Weather Channel at 6:40 AM on the Wake Up with Al show.