Chicago people watching.

I have one camera – an old Olympus PEN – and two lenses. One long, and the other one a pancake. Yes, that’s as far as my technical knowledge will go and yes, two lenses is one set too many I feel like bringing with me, especially as they share a cap between them two. Every trip, every foray entails a choice. Long or short?
Being shy I’ve always preferred the long ones when attempting at street photography, since long lenses allow me to stay further away from my subjects and I’m always afraid that people might not want me taking pictures of them. This time, though, I chose to bring the pancake, because at the end of the day I’ve got to learn and improve. Here’s what I saw.
– § –
The North Side is undoubtedly a dapper part of the city. Regardless of your ethnicity, if you’re hanging out there you’ll need to look the part. That probably explains the sideway glances I seemed to get every time I stepped out of our hotel.

– § –
Anish Kapoor’s Cloud gate is probably the most photographed thing in town. There I found inspiration in photographing others taking photos of themselves. Makes sense, right?

– § –
The lakefront parade is delightfully shabby. A concrete walkway, trees, a boarded-up ice-cream kiosk and a few ducks looking quizzically at the ice slabs floating in the chrome waters of the Lake Michigan. I instantly liked it. It was almost deserted on Christmas day morning, apart from these three tourists. Five people had the whole waterfront at their disposal.

– § –
There’s a statue of Abraham Lincoln waving his top hat at another sculpture of rare ugliness, a George Bush-lookalike dressed in a white jumper and corduroy. I spend a little while trying to figure out the discussion that must’ve taken place at City Hall (“Mayor! I got an idea: how about we make a 20-feet tall Lincoln out of papier-mâché, we stick it on Michigan avenue and we make another one of my uncle Francis, the one who looks a bit like W. Waddayathink?” “Jones, you are an absolute genius! Have a cigar and help yourself to the drinks cabinet!”), then realise the young Asian guy braving the cold and the views, alone with his pianola.
– § –
High up in the John Hancock centre, as the city slowly drifts into the night and the Christmas lights flicker into life one after the other, there’s love and tenderness to be found. Or perhaps this is the only way for both of them to watch that Big Bang Theory episode on the iPhone.

– § –
That’s it. Time to go, now.

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17 Responses to Chicago people watching.

  1. richandalice says:

    The first photo in particular is excellent. If you’re interested in street photography, you should check out the work of the late Vivian Maier.

    • awtytravels says:

      Thanks Rich, I really appreciate your endorsement of that first photo. I’d never heard of Vivian Maier prior to you mentioning her and I’ve just spent a good half hour perusing her website. It’s such a pity that there aren’t any accompanying words to her portfolios! I like her approach in taking photos, the emphasis (or so I seem to read) on photographing kids in spontaneous poses and also her delicacy. There are a couple of photos of individuals who are affected by handicaps, and one of a man who must’ve suffered some very bad burns; all these frames seem to be taken from an angle and it seems to me that she wanted to respect their privacy, as much as possible. I’ve seen other photographers going a lot more in-your-face when ‘gore’ was to be seen… Thanks again for the tip Rich!

  2. J.D. Riso says:

    I’m shy when it comes to street photography, too. Like you, I’ve begun to target people taking selfies, because, well, they obviously don’t mind their image being captured. And the lens thing. I’ve got 3 for my little Sony. So tough to choose which one to wander around with. Not easy to switch over quickly if needed, and I’ve missed out on many good shots. Love your gray images of Chicago, such a gray city this time of year. It’s always interesting to spend Christmas in a city away from home. You can tell a lot about a city, by how it is on Christmas Day.

    • awtytravels says:

      Hello Julie! I couldn’t agree more about the switching lenses thing. I’m sure that *real* photographers, who know what they’re doing, have no trouble at all getting the whole thing right – spot a good shot, calculate lights, find the right lenses, swap ’em, put the other ones back, click away and off you go – but I fail at point 1.
      I thoroughly agree about how spending Christmas away can tell you about a place. In London the only thing open are booze sellers and pubs, trains or buses don’t run and people are even snottier than usual. In Chicago the public services hadn’t packed up and almost everyone greeted each other. Tells you everything, really.

  3. Hehhe. I love the spunky approach. That sweater, really. (I have only the lens its mother gave my camera.)

    • awtytravels says:

      The sweater was horrid, and shall we talk about the orange corduroy? All it missed were some sandals and the petanque balls’ bag. Thanks for your comment M-M-M (or M3?)

  4. lexklein says:

    I love the OUT photo and seeing the Bean! We took some family photos in Millennium Park a day or two after Christmas and, of course, took a few near that great city reflector. I still lament your gray skies during your stay; it’s such a prettier city in the sunshine, but you did get to capture some northern winter moodiness that Chicago can have for a few months! As for lenses, I’ve gotten so lazy I only take one and now I use my iPhone half the time!

  5. equinoxio21 says:

    A nice – cold – stroll. Thank you.

  6. Cecilia says:

    Absolutely awesome photos! You have a real talent, congratulations!

  7. What a wonderful tour and look forward to further travels through your street shots!

    • awtytravels says:

      Thanks Patti! It’s going to be a while, I think, before the next one though… And definitely it’ll be a while before I’m again in the U.S. I’m afraid!

      Fabrizio

  8. restlessjo says:

    I love it when I occasionally make time to venture out from my tried and tested WP friends and find someone interesting. 🙂 You were in the comments at Jules and Verne and you pointed out a map that I didn’t even realise he’d hand drawn. I’m strictly a matchstick person draughtswoman so I noticed. Nice to meet you. I’d love to make it to Chicago one day but it’s improbable. Where’s home?

    • awtytravels says:

      Hi there Jo, nice to meet you as well! Thanks for popping over, and sorry for the delay in replying to you… Well, how could you not like J&W’s hand-drawn map?
      Where’s home? Well, if home is where the heart is, then it’s London, UK. If it is where the mortgage is, then it’s firmly – and for long, I daresay – in a small corner of NW Italy. How about you?

      Fabrizio

      • restlessjo says:

        NW Italy sounds nice. We have some friends over there that we may get to visit one day. I’m in the north east of England, with a lovely little place in the Algarve that we escape to whenever we can. 🙂

      • awtytravels says:

        It all depends if it’s the right corner of the country or not! (Mine sort of isn’t…)

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