"You better say something about that picture," a friend said, after I showed him the above at lunch, "or people are going to think it was Photoshopped."
It wasn't. It wasn't even cropped. I don't know how to Photoshop and have never been inclined to learn -- that's the realm of advertising, not journalism. This photo was snapped, on a cell phone, on Monday, July 1 -- standing in the doorway of the Burnham Building at 160 N. LaSalle, where I ducked to keep the sun from spoiling the picture, on my way to lunch down the street at Petro's (try the pork chops, they're delicious). I wasn't going to mention the photographs on this blog at all, not even admit that I took them, though I have, all of them.
First, they're not the point of the blog, in my mind. The posts are. As a writer, I'm of course biased toward words, and the pictures, while I hope they're nice, are supposed to encourage you to read the writing.
At least that was my original thinking. Now I find taking photos is fun, keeping an eye peeled for images that might look good on the blog. An aspect of blogging that I hadn't anticipated.
Still -- second -- laying credit to the photos suggests I think they are anything but amateur efforts, taken for the purpose of decoration. And I don't. One of the primary hazards of amateurism is falling in love with your own mediocre efforts, and giving them more weight than they deserve. Since I have no idea what good photography is, I can't tell if the above is an intriguing image or a tired cliche. You'll have to be the judge of that.
Third, photography is a sore subject where I work, at least to me. The newspaper laying off its entire photo staff leaves anyone who presumes to snap a photo afterward in an awkward position. Let's be clear. There is no replacement for professional photographers. They have the skills. They have the experience. They have the eye, the connections, the equipment. I'm just as upset as anybody else about what happened but, unlike the critics, I work there, so don't have the luxury of condemnation or mockery. I have to hope there's a larger purpose, that survival of the paper is at stake. And, frankly, on this blog it's a side issue, because this is unrelated to the newspaper. I'm taking these photos, not as a protest or statement, as my friend also suggested, but out of necessity, because I have no choice, and I'm trying to do a good job because I want them to be interesting -- I like patterns, juxtapositions, curious images. Readers also like pictures, I believe, they help the words go down, and I'm hoping to create a blog that readers like. I would prefer to have an entire a team of professional photographers working for union wages at my disposal, just as I would love a union copy desk plucking out my frequent typos and misspellings. But I don't. This is a one-man show.
Anyhow, all the photos you are going to see on this blog were taken by me during my peregrinations around town, except in clear instances where they weren't, such as the photo illustrating my story about fireworks, which was shot through the windshield of our Honda Odyssey in Battle Mountain, Nevada in 2009. Sometimes I'll reach a few years back for a picture that, I think, still works.
When I took the one above, I was drawn by the contrast between the hideous salmon and blue modernity of Helmut Jahn's horror show of a building, the Thompson Center, opened in 1985, with the classic Corinthian columns of Holabird & Roche's 1911 City Hall. Though now that I look at it, particularly compared with the photo I shot later from the same spot, showing the larger scene, so you'll know I didn't weld the images together electronically, I see this photo does illustrate something key to both photography and writing: the importance of framing, of presenting just part of reality. You often must trim away distractions and clutter in order to emphasize something dramatic or to underline a point, and so make the ordinary seem a little extraordinary.