In a beauty contest pitting Chicago’s neighborhoods against each other, Goose Island wouldn’t exactly make the top ten. She might have some great insights to share during the interview competition—about the amazing beer brewed on her shores, or the fact that she’s the only island on the Chicago River—but even an evening gown couldn’t hide her homely features.
Nevertheless, I found myself walking around there the other week, around those streets flagged with banners proudly reading “Chicago’s Industrial Corridor,” in order to find Calumet Photo. It was there that a bespectacled guy named Fred taught me how to use my new Yashica Mat 124, loaded it up with a roll of Tri-X, and sent me out to capture the world on medium format film.
Unable to contain my excitement, I shot my test roll there without the guidance of a light meter. Somehow, the gritty black-and-white film, the striking square frames, and the eerie emptiness of the neighborhood made for some pretty cool shots. I can’t wait to see what else this thing can do!
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A few weeks ago, I visited a tiny but beautiful exhibit of Uta Barth’s photography at the Art Institute. Uta, as I learned, is a homebody, and she’s fascinated by the panes of light that move across her house. She stays inside for long periods of time, painstakingly tracking the progress of light on film; it seems that her sense of time is just different from most other people’s. Below, you can see the kinds of subtle, lovely things that catch her eye.
Photos by Uta Barth
In shooting my first roll of film in four years, Uta Barth’s obsession with light served as my guiding inspiration. I pulled out my trusty Canon Rebel G whenever I noticed a flash of summer sun lolling around inside my house or just along its outside perimeter. Since light, it seems, reads especially well on film, I was especially grateful for Uta’s influence this week. A few shots from inside my little world:
An overgrown backyard as the sun sinks…
The salvaged piece of stained glass that hangs in the living room window…
The remaining half of a plum torte, lit by the morning sun…
And the light in the hallway, just as I left for work.
I bet you’ve got all kinds of sunlight lighting up your home, too. So this week, try to notice it, record it, swim in it. It’s never going to fall in exactly the same way again.
A few weeks ago, a storm blew through the North Shore—the kind of storm that makes you feel unsafe to be driving, because of all the hundred-year-old trees that have started falling into the road. My mom’s house lost power, as it is wont to do whenever the wind starts whipping. As the sun inched westward, its internal temperature climbed steadily toward 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
As a child of divorce, I will say that this was pretty much the first time that I was thankful to have two houses (although the double Christmas thing hadn’t been too awful). My father had recently moved to a new city (Washington, D.C., actually!); since his electricity remained uncompromised and the renters hadn’t quite taken over yet, I decided to move in temporarily. Everything necessary was there: an air mattress, Koko, my laptop paired with one perfect DVD—Ever After, obviously. Also, a bottle of bourbon. We camped out in the living room, right by the only window air conditioning unit that was left.
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I haven’t been writing for awhile, because to my mind, there hasn’t been much to write about. Here I am, back in that familiar land of childhood, and not much has changed about Wilmette—some shops close where new ones open, but the rhythms are always the same, and probably always will be.
But living at home after a period of independence is a slightly different animal than a pure regression to childhood. I live my life somewhere between the North Shore ‘burbs and downtown Chicago: I sleep on an air mattress in my old bedroom, but I earn my own salary (even if it’s smaller than I’d like). And, damnit, I make plans with my downtown friends to dine at Penny’s Noodles after work, because it keeps me sane. Once my roommate finds gainful employment too, we’ll join those city-dwelling friends. Till then, I’m finding ways to bridge the gap between my childhood and my future.
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As we roll through July, and the office empties out with coworkers gone fishin’, I’ve been forced to come to terms with a certain unfortunate fact: I’m not going on vacation this year.
Since I’m only three months into work with my new employer, I haven’t been gifted with any days off yet (I’ll have to wait for the six-month mark till that happens—and what a glorious day that will be!). It could be a whole lot worse, since I’ll end up with eighteen days of paid leave once the year is through—um, yes please? But as Tom Petty so eloquently put it: the waiting is the hardest part.
Weekend trips are out, too, as I recently passed my beloved old Bridget Honda on to a new owner. Again, no complaints: I’m elated that $4.50/gallon gasoline, car insurance premiums, and repair bills aren’t draining my bank account any longer. It means, however, that I won’t be leaving Chicagoland for a very long time, as enchanting a land as it may be.
When you have no time, no transportation, and no resources, you dream. So allow me to fantasize a bit about future vacation days, will you?
Photo via Kristina
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