Fear Factor


©2009 Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia

“The only thing we have to fear is….” is monster light. Well, not really…but in an experiment that shows that fear is in the eye of the beholder, I was sent to the Garfield Park Conservatory on a previous Halloween to shoot pictures of plants, but in a scary way. It sounded ridiculous, but it worked fearfully well. Keep your light down below and you can make most things scary. I know a photographer who went to a meeting of Republicans and did just that. No joke. In this case, it worked by putting the light above, creating a virtual nose and deep eye sockets.  This picture, with its ominous Hellraiser overtones,  lingers in my memory as an example of how easy it can be to manipulate the fear impulse that is normally reserved for personal survival.  Of course, having been scarred by the film “Trilogy of Terror” when I was a child, I know that impulse can be hair-trigger depending on one’s personal movie-watching history…But hey, it’s just a plant.

20th Reunion

©2009 Alex Garcia

Was back on campus at Northwestern University for my 20th year reunion and felt the urge to take pictures on campus..not just because of the fall foliage, but because as the former photo editor for the campus yearbook, there was a sense of wanting to close a circle of photography. My interest in photojournalism had started here on campus, lugging around a camera in between classes. The career interest brought me to both coasts, numerous papers and countries for assignment, then back to the Trib whose front page down the street had one of my photos that day. What a long, strange, but blessed, trip it’s been…

A Glorious Canvas


©2009 Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia

It has been a revelation for me to work the early morning shift – morning by morning new glories above the Chicago skyline. It’s amazing. Every sunrise is like a new painting (ok, when it’s not overcast)… Not that I would get up earlier on a regular basis, because  I’m such a night person, but why haven’t I ever heard people talk about the gorgeous sunrises over the city?  It’s quite different than watching the sunset over the Eisenhower in the evening and the red color caused by brake lights from a traffic jam. Here the skyline and sky create this momentous promise. You half expect to pass the Chicago Symphony Orchestra playing on an overpass or sidestreet. I can’t believe I’ve been snoozing through this for so many years…

Slivers of Light


©2009 Alex Garcia

I’m frequently in the Loop in a parking garage that faces the Metropolitan Correctional Center. With its triangular shape and narrow windows, it often causes me to pause for a longer look at its unique architecture and what I imagine to be the varied life stories found within each sliver of light. I’ve photographed enough stories of the wrongfully accused and the rightfully jailed, the innocent bystanders and the guilty perpetrators, the deceived and the deceivers, to know that every story within that narrow box is either messy, sad, evil, or some combination of the three. I usually pause, then drive away, grateful that I can.

Morning Fog


©2009 Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia

Like many people, I enjoy looking at the interplay of the skyline and the day’s weather. Yesterday I was coming in with the sky largely clear. Off in the distance, I could see something that looked like white smoke from an extinguished fire. Turned out to be morning fog coming in off the lake to engulf the Hancock. I pulled off to the side of the Kennedy for a moment to shoot the scene before it was gone.

Circle in the Sky


©2009 Chicago Tribune

I wonder how many people remember Navy Pier when it was a straightforward pier populated by fishermen and flopping fish. Now, things are…carnivalesque. With the AeroBalloon, a helium balloon with a 350-foot view, Navy Pier has an exclamation point in the sky (albeit temporary). I was there when they were putting final touches on the ride and getting their inspections done.  As I chatted with workers in the shade of the balloon, I saw the opportunity of a photo.  My camera was in aperture-priority, so I knew it would expose for the huge white circle in the frame, creating silhouettes of the workers. In this way, working with my camera is like travelling with a friend. You know how he will react in any given situation. Had I fussed with my controls, the photo would have been lost. So I pointed my camera upwards as they all began to walk away. Predictably, the meter darkened the figures and the symmetry of their backs helped float the picture…:-)