Where do Chicago photographers go to get immortalized?

Photo by Thomas Marlow

It's one of those unbelievably simple ideas that make me wonder "Why didn't I think of that?" Take pictures of people and put them on display in a prominent place, in this case, the Grand and State Red Line Subway station in downtown Chicago. A giant mural will be created by printing each photo in glass tile that will stretch across the wall of the train station. Thomas Marlow has set a goal of photographing 15,000 people for his Chicago Street Studio Project. Since July, Marlow has been setting up his portable studio in different high-traffic locations around the Chicago metropolitan area to capture real Chicagoans in the midst of their day. Visit Chicago Street Studio Project to learn more.

It's going to take quite some time for Marlow to reach his goal, so today Bobby and I are going to do our part by going to the O'Hare blue line stop where Thomas is currently set up. If you want to know where you can have your visage eternally memorialized in glass tile, click here for Thomas' schedule. Click here to see the many excellent portraits on his website.

p.s. We just got back from Thomas' studio near the Blue Line stop at O'Hare and I just have to say that it was a pleasure to meet such a gifted portrait photographer. I was fortunate to be in line behind a couple people, because I got to see how Thomas made people feel comfortable and "cut loose" in the span of only a few minutes. If that wasn't enough, he gives everyone a free print of their best photo! This is a tremendous opportunity to have your portrait taken by a talented artist while also contributing to a significant community art project.

Don't be Afraid to Get Your Feet (and your camera) Wet!

I'd like to take a moment to compare photography to a long-term investment and draw a conclusion based on that comparison. If you've ever turned down a great picture opportunity, you may find today's blog post to be thought-provoking.

When starting out in photography, the initial investment capital is applied toward the purchase of equipment, and the ongoing investment is your time spent taking pictures. The more pictures you create, the more you are diversifying your portfolio and maximizing the return on your investment.

My point is that photographs have value. You can call it sentimental or historical value or whatever. Photographic technology allows us the opportunity to capture and share moments that would otherwise be lost in the passage of time. I think too many people are fixated on the value of their camera instead of the value of the photos that are created with that camera. As a result, many people pass up valuable opportunities to create photos because they're more concerned about the camera than the photo. Sunday was a good example. My wife and I drove 2 hours to Polo, IL to watch her son ride his dirtbike.

I videotaped Bobby four years ago when he was riding a bicycle with training wheels, so needless to say, I was very excited to see him ride a dirtbike for the first time. I brought my best camera equipment (of course). The problem is that there was mud flying around in all the best spots. I had a choice, do I play it safe and put away the camera, or do I make a deposit into my investment fund?

This is the way I see it, if I only shot the "safe" pictures, most of my photos would be boring and I would have wasted my investment in equipment. But every time I get a shot I'm happy with, it's like receiving a big fat dividend check. After 17 years of shooting, my investment has paid off handsomely. It doesn't matter to me if I accidentally break my camera, because the better photos I've created have paid me far more than the cost of the camera. That may sound like a bunch of highfalutin rhetoric, but when all of my camera and video equipment was stolen a couple years ago, it was the home movies that I grieved for the most. It's not that I don't value my camera equipment. After all, I am a professional photographer and my equipment is what I use to earn a living. What I'm saying is that fear of damage to my equipment usually isn't a deterrent to me capturing a photo.

Another example is when I jumped into Lake Michigan with a camera to snap pictures of my cousin with his new boat.
Instead of going the easy route of having a blank blue sky behind him, I wanted the dramatic Chicago skyline in the background, so getting in the lake was the logical thing to do. (I'll have to ask my cousin for a copy of that photo so I can post it here.)

You can see the rest of the dirtbike photos by clicking here.

Even Santa Claus is getting hip to blogging

Image courtesy of web.net

It sounds like the punchline to a joke, but it's true - I had an interview with Santa Claus yesterday. He's making an appearance at the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade and is looking for a capable photographer to document the event. As you can see from browsing my photos, I'm a big fan of unique photo opportunities, so I had to apply for the gig because being Santa's little paparazzi elf for a day definitely qualifies as unique!

It was like a scene out of one of my more surreal dreams - here I am sitting across the table from the 6'6" 315lb bearded icon himself, and we're talking about blogs. Santa was curious about why I have a blog instead of a website. I explained to him that I wasn't happy with the traffic from my old website, and after attending an internet marketing seminar earlier this year, I learned that the search engines love sites with fresh content. This was the opposite of what I had been doing - throwing up a bunch of photos with almost no text. Now that I have a blog with lots of articles, I get far more traffic and the quality of that traffic is far better because you and all of the visitors here get to know me personally by reading my blog posts and checking out the flickr page and myspace page . As a result, I don't have to "sell" myself as hard anymore - most of that work is done for me.

However, it seems that I have a slight problem in the image department. Before we met yesterday, Santa saw my photos and thought I was some kind of strange artist-type. For the first time, I wondered what impression my photos make on the people who've never met me. Would you post a comment to let me know what YOU think?

p.s. I just got a phone call - Santa picked me! Let's hope he doesn't check his list twice this year, because I'm pretty sure I've been naughty! Be sure to check
my flickr page to see the photos.