Winter Walking

©2010 Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia

A commuter walks among the 9-foot tall cast iron legs of “Agora” a public art installation at Michigan Avenue and Roosevelt Roads. I’ve seen this several times, but didn’t see a time in which a photo could work really well.  I passed by it this morning and for the first time saw that commuters had forged a path between the legs. Shooting at eye level would have been a bit pedestrian, so I laid down in snow when I saw a commuter coming around the bend. People are such good sports. I got up covered in snow and asked for her name for the paper. I’m sure I was quite the sight, but it never ceases to amaze me how little I have to explain before complete strangers tell me what their name is and what they’re up to. In this case, maybe there was some sympathy for the photographer at work…

Snow Sculptures

©2010 Alex Garcia

Snow sculptures of various cultural figures and figments of imagination dotted the side of the road along South Michigan Avenue, compelling me to grab the kids for a visit. Among others, there was a dancing elephant, a mohawked-figure, a grandfather clock and what appeared to be an exuberant Oprah. I was off the clock, but that creative need to make photographs keeps right on going, even at a family outing.  (Fodder for another conversation….)  It didn’t take long for an image to happen – a woman saw this sculpture of a seeming religious figure and dropped to her knees. She was having fun, but was she also sincere?  Not sure.  As a photographer having fun that day, I can indulge the luxury of mystery. (BLOG UPDATE.  My friend Margaret talked to the creator of this sculpture. It’s of a Chinese opera star – not a deity. Too funny!)

Avoiding the Rain

HomelessMana.JPG

©2009 Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia

Passing by the homeless, I don’t typically stop to take a picture. I don’t know if it’s an aversion to objectifying a person, or if it’s simply not my business unless the Trib is doing a story. But I don’t want to hide the homeless either.  In this case,  I stopped to photograph the scene – maybe because of the state of the economy and its rampant foreclosures, or maybe because the stairs resembled an altar to me. I was plumbing the depths of the Lower Wacker and Lower Michigan network of streets for a weather picture, and actually ran into my supervisor who was commuting to work at that moment.  It is a peculiar place that gives many homeless at least a dry place to sleep, and commuters a chance to avoid rain for a stretch of pavement.  It’s also a place that offers one pause to consider the circumstances and results of birth, life and choice. As my mom once said to me as a child when I made a careless remark about a homeless person,  “There but by the grace of God go you…”

Above the Bean

TheBeanFromAbove©2009 Alex Garcia

Cloud Gate, or, “The Bean”, as seen from a helicopter. I was in between assignments and couldn’t resist a pass over Millennium Park to see what you could see looking down on it. Hmmm…looks like it could use a little TLC up on top. Not many people realize there is actually an office area inside The Bean. During construction of the sculpture I was ushered into it to photograph some of its inner mechanics. The reflectivity of its shiny surface somewhat disguises its true interior volume…

Finding the Founder of Chicago

DuSable

©Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia

Walking through Pioneer Court recently on a rainy day,  a new statue bust near a stairwell caught my eye. Sure enough, Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable has finally gotten his due. Known as “The Father of Chicago”, du Sable was a Haitian colonist in North America of mixed French and African ancestry and was the first known permanent nonindigenous settler of our city. That a statue of him at Pioneer Court, the site of his settlement, did not exist was irritating to many – especially to Jesse Jackson, who would attend shareholder meetings of the Tribune company to make the point. At 230 years later, it’s not the biggest statue in the court, but at least there is one. No one really knows what du Sable looked like, so the sculptor had to take some creative license. As I was photographing the bust, I noticed the sculptor was a high school friend, Erik Blome. Great job Erik!

Tribute to a Tailor

OBIT_PUCCI-4C MH

©2009 Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia

This week, the Tribune ran an obituary on an 89 year-old Chicagoan who I was sad to see pass. As we wrote, “Lawrence Pucci was one of the last remaining master tailors from a bygone era of American style.  A proud, lifelong Chicago resident and booster, Mr. Pucci custom-made exquisite, hand-stitched suits that were sought out by the rich and the powerful. Household names including former Bears owner George Halas, Hollywood stars Dean Martin and James Mason and musician Victor Borge were among his customers…”  When I photographed him on Michigan Avenue, I was struck by how much of an ambassador he was not just for Michigan Avenue and the city, but for that bygone era so far removed from my world of blue jeans and casual shirts. I’m not one for sartorial flair, but if you were to spend time with Mr. Pucci you would see it wasn’t about an expensive suit but about the whole essence of dressing, acting and being the polite and refined gentleman.  It wasn’t just a style, but a world view.  Since meeting him years ago, I still carry a greater appreciation for the formality of an era that our world has long since passed by.

Over Here, Oprah!

OprahParty

©2009 Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia

“HI OPRAH, OVER HERE, IT’S ME! The photographer who wasn’t going to get caught into your celebrity tractor beam..Over HE-ERE!”  Yes, although I was going to post a different photo today, you just can’t ignore someone who closes down Michigan Avenue. For the record, I wasn’t assigned to shoot Oprah’s kickoff show since we had enough people covering the event.  But I joined other curiosity seekers from the newsroom who gravitated over to the Tribune editorial board room to get a view of the hoopla – and it was a decent office view. In case you missed it, the big robotic figures on stage weren’t the bodyguards of the Oprah invasion of Michigan Avenue – they were part of the opening act.  As I left the building that day, past the police command post set-up in our lobby, a security guard shook his head and said mail delivery did not occur today in our building…As he said, bemusedly, “Only Oprah…”