Portland Food Photographer- Chicago

#DoWhatMovesYou Will be my theme for 2019. I found this under a bridge in Chicago (near the West Loop neighborhood) and fell instantly in love with the quote and the colors.

First- a warning- this post will not contain a lot of food photography. Ninety-Nine percent of the time the only thing I post here are food and drink photos. That’s what I do. But my October adventure to the Windy City didn’t really allow me to photograph a lot of meals, even though I ate at some fantastic restaurants. The 48 hour trip allowed me to simply have fun with my Fuji mirrorless camera. (It was freeing to walk around with such a light camera body and two small lenses.) I ended up taking a lot of “street photography” and documenting the Museum of Contemporary Art instead.

One of only four food/drink photos! Quinoa cakes from Beatrix.

So why didn’t I photograph a lot of food and cocktails? Originally, I will admit, it was my plan. I thought- I’ll go to Chicago and hit up some amazing food places and I’ll come back with all sorts of wonderful images. Two things happened that discouraged me from photographing food. First- light. (You saw that coming, right?) I don’t think my followers give two pennies about WHAT I am eating. I am not the type of person to mindlessly post everything that comes in contact with my taste buds. (I think people follow my feed because I am a photographer. So if the photo doesn’t look appealing, I simply don’t post it.) The MAIN reason I don’t bother releasing my shutter is awful lighting… and not having the ability to control or change it. I ate the majority of my meals in dark situations and the “travel” camera does not come with strobes. 😉

The second reason is the company that joined me on a lot of my food outings. One of the main reasons I quickly went to Chicago (in the midst of my busiest season!) was to spend some time with my friend and college roommate, Lindsay. I never want to disregard someone who is sitting with me just to take a damn photo. Sure- I might quickly snap something and post it to my stories (although, I’m not even great at doing that) but I don’t like to ignore my friends as I set-up an image. A lot of people expect me to do just that when I am out to dinner with them. To me, a meal, first and foremost, is important because of the people you are sharing it with. Food is secondary. I tend to not shoot a lot when I am enjoying a meal with loved ones. …Now, if I am working, that’s different. My friends know that I barely speak a word at events/dinners that I am hired to photograph.

Enough about that for a moment… I’ll list where I ate throughout the post. For now, enjoy some sunny cityscape photos I took on my first day there. I enjoyed the riverwalk with my tiny camera in hand.

The evening that followed this beautiful riverwalk was great. I enjoyed a happy hour with Lindsay and her friend at one of the many amazing rooftop bars in Chicago. Noyane did not dissappoint- wonderful cocktails and a stellar view. We then ventured over to the Logan Square neighborhood to eat dinner at Lula Cafe. It was wonderful. I highly recommend this restaurant.

My second day in Chicago I ventured to the Pilsen neighborhood. A stranger told me randomly months prior to this trip that as a photographer I would love the Pilsen area. I jotted that info down in my notes. When I was looking at what to do in Chicago I decided to take the stranger’s advice and check Pilsen out.

Choose Chicago’s website says, “For over 150 years, Pilsen has been a port of entry for immigrants. Early on it was waves of Eastern Europeans, which later shifted and became predominantly Latino. Now blended in the close knit Mexican-American community is creative types and students.” The neighborhood is filled with colorful murals which I thoroughly enjoyed photographing.

The interesting part of Pilsen was the…tension. I had heard a few comments before I went to Pilsen about the gentrification happening. It didn’t really hit me until I went to the National Museum of Mexican Art. (Which is free and excellent by the way.) Let me back up for a quick second. I had searched out some places to eat/drink in Pilsen. Dusek’s Board and Beer was a favorite in the food community so I decided to check it out. I wasn’t hungry, but the food menu did look delicious. I settled for a beer, as they were known for having an interesting beer menu. The atmosphere and bartender were nice. I took a few photos of my beer and went on my merry way. Back to the museum- the second exhibition I walked through was titled “Peeling off the Grey.” The museum’s website says, “An exhibition picking, prying and peeling off the layers of gentrification in Pilsen. To expose, let breathe, and share with others what the turmoil and dismantling of a community’s heart looks and feels like. Shown through the work of each artist and activist, the different experiences, documentation, reactions, and actions towards defending and protecting neighborhoods like Pilsen.” One of the pieces was a photo of Dusek’s with a giant red “not allowed” symbol painted across the print. Apparently, the place where I enjoyed a beer, was not quite as welcomed in the Pilsen community. I remembered seeing a sign on the front of Dusek’s that said something about loving the community… or respecting it… or maybe both. The restaurant was trying to communicate that they did not place their establishment there to somehow rid Pilsen of its culture. Whether that is true or not- is beyond me. And I don’t know if Pilsen used to be painted gray (aka gentrified) and that in the past few years they have added the murals, etc. to bring back the culture. Or, if, they are currently in a fight against those that are trying to gentrify the neighborhood. I don’t live there, so I wasn’t sure all that was going on. But it was very interesting and educational.

It’s hard to see- but the reflection in the beer glass says “Pilsen USA” and a little lower right it says “Dusek’s.”

The evening that followed my hot-sweaty (yes, it was like 90 in October) walk around Pilsen was filled with a lot of good eats, drinks and laughter. I ventured over to the West Loop area. (A great area for food!) I tried $1 oysters and German beer at The Publican. I Secretly wished that Duck, Duck, Goat was open earlier so I could eat there. (Next time!) And then I met up with Lindsay and her friends at Parlor Pizza. We heard about a secret speak-easy in the neighborhood where you had to walk through a barbershop to get in…which we found…and had a blast at. I have no idea what the speakeasy was called or what cocktail I had, but it was my favorite drink of the entire trip. I know it featured benedictine and that’s really all I can recall. (Enter Google. I found the speakeasy here. Thanks, Eater!) And if we didn’t already eat enough- Lindsay and I had a late night reservation at The Loyalist. Which bosted one of the best cheeseburgers, so naturally I had to try that. And it was pretty dang good.

Beer sampling at The Publican
Inside The Publican… I had the restaurant all to myself.

My last day in Chicago was spent at the Museum of Contemporary Art. It was very high on my Chicago bucket-list. I was thrilled that A- it was raining, B- I was by myself and C- they allowed cameras! Different forms of art can inspire a photographer. I can’t paint, I can’t draw, I can’t sculpt, I can’t do really any of the arts- except photography. Admiring other people’s artistic abilities can light up your own creative side. And I knew that if I could walk around with my camera I would be inspired. And that I was. The images that follow are a mixture of artistic environmental photos and documentary museum photos. In other words- some photos are meant to be art, even if they include someone else’s art, and other photos are to just show parts of the museum I witnessed. Do note- elbows and slanted lines are on purpose. And take an extra look at the gentleman in the chair drawing and his surroundings.

I ended the trip with a long walk in the rain, a quick trip to the Chicago Cubs store (duh!) and one more cocktail with my friend.

There is nothing more entertaining to a photographer than to simply walk around and take photos of what they see. Chicago was a great place to do just that.

The first image of this post has been my desktop image for months now. Every day I look at the bright colors and the hashtag #DoWhatMovesYou It dawned on me, as I was editing, that it should be my 2019 motto. Do What Moves Me. More appropriately, for photography, Shoot What Moves Me. Document What Moves Me. Find Light That Moves Me. Yes, I am a food photographer- and sometimes it’s hard to be “moved” by food. If you’re going to be moved by food, it will be when you eat it, not photograph it. But I can be moved by the people that created the dish, I can be moved by the light and composition I use to make that food stand out. So this year- my goal is to simply Do What Moves Me. …And maybe photograph a little more street photography- this time in my own city of Portland.

Happy shooting! And Happy 2019!

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How light is pursued and captured is a photographer's constant challenge and perpetual joy.