About This Image: 35 W. Madison, Chicago

July 12, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

35 W. Madison

A general aesthetic goal for my "Metropolitan" series is to depict today's urban environment contextually.  To this end I often prefer to take rich, wide-angle views of city scenes.  Such images tell future viewers something of how urban life felt in our times.  This image is a good example of my efforts towards this end.  Here's why.

Light-fall, shadows, and light tonality are essential elements for this type of urban photography.  The right light has a magical way of turning otherwise dull, flat street scenes into scenes that have tremendous expression and 3-dimensional volume.  Chicago's Loop, the central downtown area, is organized on an orthogonal grid of streets oriented closely to the compass points.  So the impact of the sun's path is quite nicely predictable.

Unfortunately there are only about two weeks from late July to early August, when the light in this image is possible.  The afternoon light that makes this image work simply does no happen at other times of the year.

Capturing this image took two years (two seasons) of attempts.  In fact, this final image was nearly accidental as I was not hunting specifically for it on this day.

Two specific features are worth noting as part of this explanatory discussion.

Pedestrian parade

The pedestrian parade is an essential element of many of my "Metropolitan" series images.  It's a feature that I find fascinating as a time capsule in much celebrated street and documentary photography of the 20th century  so I try to incorporate a good life slice into my images.

But getting a good parade can be a formidable challenge of chance particularly if you're chasing fleeting light conditions as I was here.  A "good parade", for me, means a scene not dominated by phone talkers or smokers, ideally none of either.  It's a parade of people who may be in personal bubbles but appear to be engaged with their environment.

This is an acceptable parade, not the best but the best I captured at this scene on this day.  Here, the boy carrying the bag over his head becomes the centerpiece.  The energetic young boy at far left is also a good element.  The right side is a bit dull.  In candid photography perfection is deliciously elusive.

The sense of spaciousness of the scene is greatly enhanced by the subtle transparency of the Inland Steel Building in the background.  It is only at this time of the year when the late afternoon sun streams into the building's west curtain wall and the building appears to glow for short time.  The textures created by the internal lighting also add to the image's richness.  A large print of the image reveals people and furnishings in the office spaces.

Yes, this is an image best viewed as a large print.  Failing that, viewing it at full screen size will certainly give you the intended impression.


Camera:  Fujifilm X100



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