Archive for July, 2012

July 31, 2012

The Goodman

I like when people don’t notice they’re in my frame. This guy was busy waiting for a cab, or maybe looking around for a friend. He didn’t see sitting in the doorway of a building shooting the Goodman Theatre until the last moment, when I was already shooting my multiple exposures. He looked back at me, then spun his head back around in the direction I was shooting – probably wondering where I was looking or what I was shooting at. He knew it wasn’t him, although I was happy to have him in the shot when the results came back.
The Goodman
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July 30, 2012

Up in the corner

I broke my own rule for the second time in a week. Maybe it’s the staircases. Recently I said I would rather not post images from the same place on successive days, but setting up the walk-up to The Empire Room as I did on Sunday means to me that I need to deliver an Empire Room image. It’s not an obligation kind of thing, it’s just how I sold it. After recapping the journey to the room I myself would like to go back inside. Let’s do so.

THE EMPIRE ROOM, as the sign outside shouts in all caps, is bold and dominating. It looks like the kind of place in which a president should speak to his vast cadre of same-minded constituents – if they actually had something to say. It almost surrenders to this buttoned-up status quo, but it is gold and garish. I found a corner, got up on one of the three stages and let the space stretch up behind me overhead. I believe this summarizes the place as best as possible. While it is of the establishment it simultaneously pushes the volume just past a listenable decibel – expensive, yet artfully excessive. Maybe this explains why presidents stay in this hotel when they visit Chicago, but The Empire Room itself hosts musical acts and performances.

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July 29, 2012

To The Empire

When you look up in the Palmer House you’re transported to another place. I’m not sure what or where it is, but it could be Cambodia. It reminds me of the end of Apocalypse Now – way up the river. But that could just be the potted ferns and all the color. Oh, and the dudes with the candles on their heads.

Two of these statues guard the staircase to The Empire Room, or as they spell it: THE EMPIRE ROOM – which sounds like it should be in New York. They’re very imposing. It makes you a little bit worrisome about climbing the staircase to the room, but it’s open. When you turn the doorknob you peek over your shoulder, because you’re surprised it opens. Nobody notices down below. You can go in. You can walk around. You can take photos.
To The Empire
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July 28, 2012

The ledge of The Center

The Thompson Center, as my friend who works in the building says, “is ridiculous.” He’s not a fan. When the building went in back in 1985 it got mixed reviews. I stand on the opposite side of the ledger. It may not be functional with the vast majority of the edifice housing open space, but it is fantastical and postmodern. That makes for a happy photographer.

Its spectacle obvious, you can’t go off finding dreamy images to make with any kind of comfort. You get slapped if you’re caught taking a picture here. The reason the building is intentionally spacious is to suggest the display of open government. It does house the State of Illinois, and for anyone truly paying attention the past decade-plus, that openness in state government is debatable at best. A large swath of security, including metal detectors at the elevators, protect the 17-story building from whatever perceived security threat. There was a time you could ride to the top floor and shoot down to the sunburst designed into the basement floor. Not after 9-11. That basement is from where this photo is taken, under the rim-like ledge of the first floor, from off a table-top, discretely, so I didn’t get ushered out.
The ledge of The Center
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July 27, 2012

The open mic

Given free reign of an old Chicago hotel recently, my favorite discovery occurred just before midnight in a massive red ballroom. The microphone not only stood perfectly alone front and center, it was also left on. I remember speaking into it moments before taking the picture. My words echoed around the mostly empty room, but I don’t have any idea of what I said. Concerned I’d stir security with taking my exploration a step too far, I quickly snapped off six exposures of the microphone looking directly into its head. Three of them were used to make this photo.

I wasn’t the only one in the room. Two children were running around playing as if they owned the place while their mother watched carefully that they keep in line. It was a surreal moment to be in this incredible room with kids playing as the day closed. We made sure to take a picture of the kids that I’ll hope to get posted in the near future. I liked how the microphone was left there waiting for a voice. It became the entire focal point of the gigantic space.The open mic
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July 26, 2012

Water waiter

It nearly reached 100 degrees again the other day, but since then the rains have competed with the heat to cool it off at times. A fountain summarizes this experience nicely. I waited for the space to clear in order to shoot this scene empty as I like the monolithic mood of emptiness, but he didn’t leave. Moments earlier the boy was bouncing around with inherited friends recently acquired under the spray. When he saw me set up and wait, he stopped, sat there and outwaited me. Obviously he wanted his picture taken. I gave him the thumbs up and captured this.
Water waiter
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July 25, 2012

Stairs to the dome

I’ll rarely post photos from the same scene on back-to-back days, but this one needs a bit of context, I believe. To get to the domed roof I published yesterday you climb this masterpiece of a staircase within the Chicago Cultural Center. The marble is so solid it’s as if it could last forever. There are a lot of great staircases in some of the older buildings in Chicago. I’ll have to find and share a few more during the lifetime of this blog.
Stairs to the dome
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July 24, 2012

The domed ceiling

Inside the Chicago Cultural Center’s south end is a gorgeous room detailed to the tiniest degree. I’m stumped for words to even start describing it. Honestly, the picture says enough to display both the room’s beauty and grandeur. I framed it this way so the hanging light comes right at you as it does in person. The color and light force your attention upward through the rotunda. It’s amazing.

When I was a little boy I saw a performance of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, a local PBS show, in this very room. I think Lady Aberlin’s dress was blue and Mr. Rogers’ cardigan gray. Somehow, I remember going “back stage,” which was just a side door into a stairwell. I remember nothing of the performance, but at the time I did think the room was a bit elaborate for Mr. Rogers.
The domed ceiling
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July 23, 2012

Working green

For a while I thought the green movement was a fad, but it seems like it’s caught on. I’ve worked in plenty of offices now that try to conserve paper use when they used to burn it like nobody’s business. Personally, I use almost no paper on a daily basis.

The fountain is really that green! This is the lead-up to St. Patrick’s Day, when everything goes green in Chicago, from the buildings’ night lights to the river to this little fountain. I’m fairly certain the man is working or studying during a late-afternoon break, but it would be much better to know he was sketching the waterfalls. We don’t actually know if this is the case, but at least he picked a great space for inspiration. I almost painted his water bottle green, but because very little touch-up went into this photo I chose not to doctor it any further.
Working green
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July 22, 2012

Stacked chairs, buildings

My friends are assembling a set for a comedy show. I’m sworn to secrecy on the matter until October, I believe. I can say that the show requires a bunch of tables and chairs. I don’t think I can share much more than that. Anyway, while the carpentry and lighting specs are measured out the chairs and tables wait outside. The chairs were stacked rather imperfectly in the hallway on the 16th floor of Trump Tower, which has unique site lines on the rest of the city. I liked how the buildings out the window mimicked the chair-stacking in a way. Or is it the other way around? I had to sit out here for a while because I felt like I was in the way of the lighting guy. He had a lot of lights. Ok, honestly, I just headed to the hallway because I really wanted this shot.
Stacked chairs, buildings
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