Da Mayor

Da Mayor

©2009 Chicago Tribune

I would be remiss to start a Chicago photoblog without a reference to Mayor Daley, who has become something of a fascination to those who observe him through the lens. He can appear, within moments of each other, to be both good-natured and yet, well, a tad surly.  The latter is the emotion more often reflected in the day’s news, from press conferences that get testy.   Whether or not that’s an unfair caricature, I thought these two images provide a useful insight on how moment, light, composition and angle of view can all contribute to different representations of Da Mayor.

In the Mood for Italian


©2009 Chicago Tribune

A Chicago classic character. Maitre d’ at the Italian Village restaurant for fifty years. Knew Pavarotti, Sinatra, all the Italian heavyweights. Mayor Daley? Knew him when he was just a law student kid.  The picture is all ambient light. Lighting subjects with the ambient available is so counter-intuitive. As photographers we’ve got our magic kit of attachments and secret-sauce recipes that we itch to use.  But sometimes “you dance with the gal that brought ya”.  In this case the mood of the place was too evocative of history and the twinkles of romance to not explore the possibility of letting the mood speak for itself.

Peter Sagal


both images ©2009 Chicago Tribune

Peter Sagal is back on my radio dial. The game show host of NPR’s “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me” radio show lives in my Chicago suburb, and so with my portrait propensities, we often find ourselves in each other’s company. “Hey! You again!” I also noticed that The Buzz coffeehouse has put one of my pictures of him up on the wall (we are both customers) which makes for an interesting local connection to a national celebrity.  The photo at left was my first picture of him, enjoying his vintage bicycle for a story about “favorite things”.  At right was a photo at the actual coffeehouse.  I’ll post the current photo when the “Blue” paper publishes.

Transforming A Scene II

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©2009 Chicago Tribune

A few posts back, I wrote about transforming a hum-drum scene. In that case, it was through the use of underexposure of sky, and the careful placement of strobes to accentuate the relevant parts of an image. Here I’m on the same subject, but am transforming the scene through the use of collage. It can be a technique that can be hackneyed if not used appropriately. I’m reminded of Gregory Heisler’s term “the appropriate response” when it comes to choosing the method that works best with the subject at hand. With discus-throwing there are so many grunts-thrusts-jerks-spins-and-grimaces that one photo doesn’t capture them well, and neither does a stand-far back-with-a-wide-angle burst of shutterfire. You need to be in his space to see the ripples and sinews of shirt and skin all building up to that one moment of discus release which doesn’t necessarily have to be seen in order to be in awe of..


CT Doctor.Homeless02

©2009 Chicago Tribune

I love stories of redemption. Of people who were able to see past obstacles in their life to embrace a larger vision of themselves, their loved ones, their community. Everett was one such person. Destitute. Homeless. Drug Addict. Now he has a roof over his head and a soul food catering business that has enrichened the community in which he lives. Along the way he has helped and encouraged countless others in their pursuit of happiness as well. My hats off to the chef…

Transforming a Scene


©2009 Chicago Tribune

Whether it’s a state champion or a Superbowl champion, I try to extend the same lighting courtesies. Which is to say, multiple flashes in a way that completely transforms the scene that you are given. In this case, I arrived on an overcast, grey day to an athlete standing without his uniform in an empty field. I’d like to think he and his coach could not have expected a picture like this to emerge from the drab surroundings. With certain pictures, my goal is to leave both the subject and the viewer with an image that interrupts their belief in the static nature of reality. Fancy words for a prep portrait…:-)

When a Presidential Portrait is not Really

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©2009 Chicago Tribune

You can’t launch a Chicago blog without including some of its famous denizens. Chicago is in the national consciousness now stronger than ever because of President Obama.  I was assigned to shoot his first interview with a newspaper after winning the election. Alas,  “No portrait”.  I was to meet him in his transitional office after his three layers of security.  Fluorescent lights. Sterile. Don’t show the bullet-proof window barriers.  Unwilling to walk away with just a talking head of our newest president, I quickly set up a softbox and looked for a mood to show the big issues he was struggling with.  Whether you agree with him or not, he seems a thoughtful and introspective person – traits I was looking to capture. I find that photographing executives who only have a few minutes often involves more fast-thinking (technical, aesthetic, and interpersonal persuasion) than shooting spot news as a photojournalist.