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We here at tWp are thrilled to announce the start of our Chicagoans portrait project! This project will feature portraits and statements of Chicago citizens from all walks of life. The inspiration for this project has to do with the work of countless inspiring photographers who tell peoples’ stories with magnificent portraits. We not only want to introduce you to these people but also to give them a voice on this website to say what they will, hopefully stimulating conversation. Have a read and leave a comment or two! Today’s Chicagoan is Luc Rodgers (and his doggie Emma): cafe manager (at my favorite coffee house!), dog-owner, metal fanatic/DJ ….
What do you love and hate about the city?
One of the aspects I love most about Chicago is the enormous geographical size yet small, midwestern feel and attitude of its citizens. While it may take a while to get somewhere it is almost a sure bet that you are gonna see someone you know along the way. Also, the varying neighborhoods and what each of them has to offer. For instance one can travel from my neighborhood, Uptown, which is extremely diverse (and violent) a few blocks north to Andersonville where the local businesses of various types are all lined up for your perusal. Of course, the best part about Andersonville are the Hopleaf, for the greatest beer selection and food (the first gastropub in the midwest, 15 years and running strong), and Simon’s, which has the greatest juke box and bartenders.
I absolutely hate Lincoln Park and the general attitude it has spawned. Being populated by mostly people that grew up in small towns, most of them walk around with a snooty attitude for the sole reason of living in a large metropolitan area. Living here does not make one “metropolitan” or demure, as some might think. When you are jogging with make up on, you’re an ass, plain and simple.
What is Chicago’s best kept secret?
If you asked me this a few years ago I would’ve said Kuma’s, but that has long since spoiled. (No fault of Kuma’s…the place is still great, it is just most of the clientele (read: Lincoln Park) that unfortunately have the ability to ruin anything good. I would have to say Metal Haven is definitely one secret that remains a real gift. It is a record store on Montrose and Damen (just down the street from my place) that carries strictly metal. The categories include Doom, Brutal Shit, and the like. While the vinyl selection is relatively small, it is forever changing so repeat visits are mandatory if you are to find that long lost Exodus record or a re-issue of some good Norwegian black metal stuff. SImply walking around also provides some insight into the little gems hidden away in this great city. For instance there is a great tunnel a few blocks away from my house that goes underneath Lake Shore Drive and opens up to a beautiful multi-teired fountain set below the surrounding area, making it invisible to passers-by on the trail and LSD.
Another is my metal night at Jerry’s…yes, shameless self-promotion. Situated in the heart of Wicker Park on Damen and Division, Jerry’s is an upscale sandwich restaurant with a great beer selection and live music or DJs a few nights a week. It is the last place one would expect a night of metal, but it is there nonetheless. What could be better than a delicious hummus sandwich, Thai pasta salad, and Bell’s Two-Hearted coupled set to the relaxing sounds of Gorgoroth’s Twilight of the Idols (in Conspiracy With Satan)? Obviously nothing.
What is Chicago’s biggest problem?
The public transit system continues to dumbfound and rile me. Standing at a bus stop in the dead of winter with frozen snot stuck to your cheeks and witnessing four buses go by, all of them not the one you’re waiting for, can put a damper on anyone’s day. The fact that it cost $2.25 per ride with no free transfers makes one wonder, “Where in the hell is all of this money going?” Well, obviously some of it is going to the useless sacks of shit sitting in the “customer service” booths in the train stations. One in ten are helpful and the rest of them always get testy when you interrupt their cell phone conversations to tell them that the fare card machine ate your money.
The taxes here are unreal as well. In the loop alone the sales tax is 11.25%, the highest in the country. Don’t even get me started on the double-taxed cigarettes (one from Illinois and the other from the city itself). $10.25 for a pack of smokes is far too common.
Sum up Chicago in one word.
How these images were made.
I’m going to make a bit of an effort to include some information about how we make these images, especially for the Chicagoans project. Any photogs who find them interesting may be curious - so here are the details:
Taken with a Sigma 14mm f/3.5 on a Nikon D700, f/8, 1/200, ISO 800, tungsten WB.
One large softbox camera left (held by Mike) powered by an Nikon SB-26 at full power with one full CTO filter, triggered by a Pocket Wizard Plus. One Nikon SB-26 at half power with one full CTO filter, triggered by setting to “slave.”
The idea here is to underexpose the last bit of eastern twilight by 2 full stops, lighting the subject from the left with soft light and with hard light from the right. The CTO filters turn the neutral strobe light orange, which is turned neutral again by setting the camera white balance to tungsten (do this to turn the sky a fully saturated and very deep blue).
How to get that awesome lens flare sprayed across the frame. I decided to break every rule about portrait photography (to compensate for my lack of portrait photography experience) by shooting with a very wide angle lens, getting really close to the subject. The lens flare comes from the hard, bare flash on the right - the 14mm has a bulbous front element - place a hard light *just* out of frame and you’ll get some dramatic flare - it’s the ultimate twist on catch light.