Meeting Rick Bayless…


©Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia

Have you ever really looked forward to meeting someone, only to get off on the wrong foot immediately?  I was recently sent to shoot a special preview of Xoco, the new restaurant by Rick Bayless, with the understanding that I would photograph him and arrange a shoot at his house for a future Sunday story.  My wife and I have both enjoyed his show, so I was looking forward to this unique opportunity. I arrived and didn’t want to disturb him as he worked so I started photographing the scene above with the assumption that all was arranged. Once we made eye contact, however, it was as if I had crashed a party. He hadn’t gotten the message about exactly what I was doing, and was justifiably concerned that photos of his dishes would get passed around the internet before they had been finalized for the grand opening.  Very understandable, so after we came to an understanding everything went fine – although I still felt like a paparazzi... Unfortunately, or maybe it was all for the best, the later pictures at his home had to be reassigned to someone else because of a scheduling conflict…alas, these things happen…:-)

A Person of Towering Influence

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©2009 Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia

In this photoblog’s attempt to help you appear informed and city-wise at any cocktail party, I submit to you the perfect name to be casually dropped in conversation:  Adrian Smith.  His influence at helping make Chicago a great city far outweighs his name recognition. He’s the architect for the renovation of State Street, the basic outlines of Millennium Park, the NBC and AT&T buildings and the soon-to-be-completed Trump International Hotel & Tower, at right. He also designed the plans for the world’s tallest building building in Dubai, which will be the tallest in all four categories in which buildings are measured.  When I met him in his office at left, he had a cornucopia of imaginative models for buildings, which took a while to light to get the right reflection in the tall model at left. The reflection at right came from a much bigger light:-)  Architects like Smith help make the city of Chicago  known not only as the “City of Broad Shoulders” but also the “City of Broad Imaginations”…

Something in the Air

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©2009 Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia

Normally, cruising the skies in a helicopter is a very cool assignment. But circling the largest polluters in the Chicago area on a hot day for three hours while breathing chopper exhaust isn’t exactly what the doctor ordered. But hey, it’s still a helicopter ride. The images were for one of several environmental stories we’ve published since taking a more aggressive watchdog role this past year. This past Sunday the Tribune published a story about how state politics had reduced environmental law enforcement, requiring federal regulators to step in to cite such companies as the one which owns the coal-powered plant in the photo. The state didn’t see any problems with the emissions, but since that very company was represented for years by one of ex-Governor Blagojevich’s top campaign aides, well, let’s just say something was in the air…

Mystery Trains


©2009 Alex Garcia

I’m in Lee County, west of Chicago, and am summoned by the age-old allure of train tracks.  My father-in-law, John Husar, a long-time outdoors columnist at the Trib, was enamored with them. Like many, he knew train schedules in the area.  He could tell you when, where…and what-is-all-that-stuff anyway?  He’d sit on a park bench near the tracks, beam a giant smile and light a cigar while giving you an impassioned history lesson about Chicago. Of course, this is what I’ve been told. He passed away before we could have this rite of passage. As I write this from the getaway location he frequented, I hear the echoes of train whistles in the distance and their gentle reminders of a region and a family.  I photograph these lines at dusk, hoping to follow their pathways to understand my shared history.

Downtown Downpour


© 2009 Chicago Tribune

For the Chicago area and our economy, it seems like there’s always the threat of more rain. Occasionally to this column I’ll be publishing flashback photos – pictures that represent a timeless Chicago and that most of my blog readers have never seen. This scene was from a July in which I found myself on LaSalle Street for an unexpected downpour.  The humorous aspect of this picture is that I was trying to keep ahead of this businessman to frame him within the street yet he kept speeding up at the sound of my footsteps. He didn’t look back, and so couldn’t have known who I was. But he pressed ahead more quickly. Perhaps his healthy paranoia of the unknown is a useful commodity in today’s business world!:-)