The beauty of photography is that it brings everyone one step closer to each other. Not only does it have the ability to open our minds and our vision but it also makes it possible for us to see the world at any given moment.
Since joining the world of photo and social sharing, I have been “meeting” people from all around the world, that live in places that I categorize as, “have been to”, “not yet discovered” or “wish to discover”.
When I first joined Instagram, I searched for cities that I had recently traveled to and started following some local photographers in the area. It was my way of revisiting those cities without having to actually fly. But then it got me thinking that I’m certainly not alone on this quest. There are billions of people that love to travel and there are those who have never left their hometown.
Every month, a different city from around the world will be showcased by photographers who are not only exceptional artists but also community leaders, from all walks of life. My aim is to feature photographers who I feel share a true representation of their city, from a local’s point of view.
I hope you enjoy our first stop to Chicago aka the “Windy City”.
So please… relax, sit back and enjoy the ride…
Please take a moment to learn more about Chicago and the photographers featured.
Fayth = F, Ivan = I, Jason = J, Ruth = R, Ryan = Ry
Where are you originally from? How long have you lived in Chicago and what do you do for a living?
F: My early childhood was in Chicago, but I grew up in Los Angeles, CA. I’ve lived in Chicago since 1995. I am Principal Director of Operations at a technology consulting firm.
I: I’m Puerto Rican, born and raised in Chicago’s Mexican community, La Villita/Little Village. I’m an actor and co-founding executive director of UrbanTheater Company (UTC), a non-for-profit based in Humboldt Park. I also work for Food For Thought catering as well as other jobs here and there for supplemental income.
J: I am from Phoenix, Arizona. I lived in downtown NYC for 20 years and relocated to the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago 2 years ago. I am the chief creative officer of Havas – a 400 person full service advertising and marketing company.
R: I’m a lifelong Chicagoan. I’ve tried to escape from the harsh winters many times but Chicago is home. I’m a film editor who has the good fortune to work on many types of projects, including commercials and independent films. Most of my career has been spent editing commercials shot the classic way, on 35mm film.
Ry: I am originally from Seattle, WA but moved to Chicago when I was 13. I have now lived in Chicago for 17 years. I am a film editor/producer and now specialize in the healthcare field.
How does your profession influence your photography? Are there any other interests which attribute to your love of photography?
F: In general my profession has no relation to my photography. I have had a love of photography since childhood. Music, modern art, architecture, journalism, photojournalism, and social psychology are all interests of mine, and I’d say they all directly or indirectly influence my photography.
Old Style Jazz by Fayth
I: My first love is theater/acting, but it ties in perfectly with my love for photography. It’s a perfect platform to express my creativity, plus, they both carry the commonality of storytelling. I’m fascinated with peoples journey. Everyone is on a path to get somewhere and I’m very intrigued with how they’re getting where they are going.
J: Advertising is all about social media. I tell all my clients and employees that if you can’t succeed at social media platforms for yourself then how do you expect to do it for brands. I use shooting photos on IG as white noise therapy for my crazy hectic day. I usually disappear at lunch time to shoot shots. My assistant recently told me an intern asked why she saw me kneeling down in a Chicago alley with my iPhone.
R: My profession makes me appreciate the extreme attention to detail in much of the cinematography that I’m exposed to. But there are large teams of highly creative professionals who bring those images to the screen. My photography, in contrast, is very random, unplanned, lit only by the sun or other available light and really does rely on what I happen to ‘come across along the way.’ For me, the lack of ‘production’ and the focus on a quiet and still image, rather than a moving one with sound and music, makes photography really feel like a peaceful hobby and not ‘work.’
I love process and detail, architecture and travel, the human figure, light and geometric shapes, and also technology, and all of this comes together in my photography.
Ry: Photography is something I did professionally for a number of years early in my career. Corporate work became stale and uncreative and I ended up focusing my work in film editing instead. My current work in producing and editing moving images is extremely related to composing a photograph and I try to take the same approach in both avenues: let the image speak for itself as much as possible. My main focus is to edit as minimally as I can.
With the changes to Instagram and the emergence/popularity of other apps, do you feel as if your interest to connect with the mobile community has remained the same or changed? Are you as active on these sites as you were when you first started sharing photos?
F: Instagram was a much smaller global community when I started using it in 2010 – about 1 million. It was much easier to connect with people who were genuinely interested in mobile creatively through Instagram. Along with the changes to Instagram itself, came millions of users who use the app in less creative or thoughtful ways. That, coupled with the uncertainty of Facebook’s impact drove me to at least try other apps as a backup. I definitely became more interested in connecting with the mobile community outside of Instagram, but I’m not as active on other sites or apps as I am or back when I first started using Instagram.
I: My interest is still the same as when I first started experimenting with mobile photography on Instagram about a one year in a half ago. Change is good and you have to adapt, but it definitely does not stop me from continuing to stretch myself outside my comfort zones. It’s all about learning and growing in everything I do. Instagram is my main photo sharing app, but there are other apps that I use such as EyeEm and Tadaa to name a couple.
J: For IG it’s the same just a bigger scale. It always had the same pros and cons they just get louder as it grows. I like EyeEm, it’s the best next to IG. I tried them all, Tadaa is cool. Starmatic has a cool thing going. The rest are whatever.
North Avenue Beach by Jason
R: Over time, I find that my interest in mobile photography and the various apps that I use for photo sharing keeps evolving. What I ‘see’ or wish to ‘see’ keeps changing and over time my desire to share keeps changing too. For me, it is critical that posting on IG and EyeEm and other apps remains feeling fresh and unconstrained so that it never feels like ‘work.’ I post less often than I did when I first started. I think it’s for various reasons, including time constraints and that I find it harder and harder to find a shot that feels original.
I still love to connect with the mobile community. I am inspired by the creativity of others in some way every day. IG has gotten so big, with so many users, that I often find myself unable to keep up and to enjoy the beautiful work of so many others. That’s what I love about EyeEm, for example, it’s a much smaller community, more intimate and for me the focus is really more on the photography itself and less on the social aspects.
Ry: Instagram is a constantly evolving community and it certainly is very different from what it was over 2 years ago. Change is good. Competitive apps are good. It keeps us challenging ourselves in and we should never be complacent. With that said, I find it difficult to manage more than one app. My involvement has grown over the years and I find the most satisfaction from going to meet ups and meeting complete strangers to find inspiration.
Have you had any professional training in photography? What devices/cameras do you use most?
F: I had taken general photography classes long ago, and was trained on an old Hasselblad medium format film camera by a friend who is a photographer. I have a few friends who are professional photographers in media and entertainment, so in some ways I feel as though I’m constantly being trained each time I need help – particularly for dark-lit or night photography. Which is great! Primarily I use a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (I prefer a big screen), shooting with the Fotor app. I also use a Nikon DSLR, but less and less frequently for Instagram posts. Most of my editing is on an iPad or on the Samsung Galaxy Note 2.
I: I have not had any formal training in photography. What I know today, I’ve learned on my own, while being inspired by others and their work. While in college at Roosevelt University, I bought my first camera. It was a Nikon D60 film camera. Since then, I’ve never stopped taking photos. It came naturally to me. I’ve always enjoyed capturing moments and being able to instantaneously document how I see the world around me. After going through many digital point and shoot cameras, I purchased a Nikon D80 from a good friend and a very talented photographer, Anthony Aicardi. I’m currently looking to upgrade my equipment and take things to another level. In the meantime, the device I use most often is my convenient and unobtrusive iPhone4S.
J: iPhone only. I did get a tripod for Xmas but don’t usually lug it around. I took photography through college. I have shot every format in the past and have a closet full of expensive equipment I haven’t touched in 3 years.
R: I have not had any professional training in still photography, per se, but I did go to a very theoretical film school where we shot 16mm film. Plus, I’ve been working with gorgeous imagery for my entire career. I take all my pictures with my iPhone 4s or with my Nikon DSLR.
Ry: I had quite a few photography classes in high school and college, and I even taught a couple in college, but nothing compares to just grabbing a camera and challenging yourself. I am certain that my photo-a-day project I did a few years back taught me more about photography than any class I’ve taken. I use a Canon 7D for my non-iPhone work.
#theresultofmissingthetrain by Ryan
Fayth is a manIger for the @IgersChicago team. Have you joined any of their (or other group’s) photowalks/events? Am curious… have you all met each other in person?
F: Luke (@agentluke) was the very first person to reach out to me when I first launched IGers Chicago! We became friends before the first instameet, and we have been friends ever since. In terms of everyone else who is being featured on We Are Juxt from Chicago, everyone has attended instameets except Ruth, and we know each other through Instagram.
I: I have been on several photo-walks with Fayth and others from @IgersChicago. It’s been great to meet and connect with a diverse group of mobile photographers through this “little” photo sharing app called Instagram.
J: I have gone to a few. I like all those people they are a diverse group all centered around love of photography. I met @ryanpostel and @kevinkuster through Chicago IG and consider them friends.
R: I have not participated in any of the IgersChicago events..yet. I really look forward to meeting some of Chicago’s incredible talent. My free time is limited and I love the quiet of taking pictures alone. Interestingly enough, I have met Ryan Postel. We met through IG when we were both relatively new and I hired him to help me edit a feature-length documentary that I was working on at the time. It was a great pleasure and my luck to have met Ryan through IG.
Ry: I have attended nearly every Chicago meet up over the last year and a half. I really love them. I have met everyone in this feature and call these people my friends. Chicago has such a solid group of talented IGers and we are very open and collaborative.
What tip would you give anyone traveling to Chicago for the first time? Is there a place that you consider a “hidden gem”?
F: The tip I’d give someone on their first visit to Chicago would be: Bring walking shoes because Chicago is best experienced by walking from neighborhood to neighborhood, or hopping on public transit and seeing as much as possible. Despite all the news hype about crime in Chicago, there are really only a handful of pockets of the city where the majority of crime occurs, and one would have to go out of their way to find it.
There are a ton of hidden gems in the is city depending on one’s interests. For staying on the beaten path, the Alfred Caldwell Lilly Pool is definitely a gem. It’s adjacent to the Lincoln Park Zoo, but few people, including Chicagoans, know it’s there. Built in the 1930’s, it is touted as a premier example of Prairie style landscape design which functions as a bird sanctuary with winding paths surrounding a lily pond with a wooden shelter designed in the architectural Prairie style on one side of the pond.
Off the beaten path, the Pilsen neighborhood is Chicago’s hidden gem because it was one of the only neighborhoods that withstood the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Now home for many artists, this neighborhood is not glitzy or even very well maintained, but for an Instagramer with an eye for historic architecture, this it’s definitely a hidden gem.
I: Exploring downtown is a must, but if you want to take advantage of the diversity, history, food and rich culture Chicago has to offer, do yourself a favor and visit: Humboldt Park, Logan Square, Pilsen and Hyde Park. I really like the West Loop in the Near West Side of Chicago. It’s very industrial area with a wonderful and gritty playground.
J: Lower Wacker is the best. Also wake up early before everyone is up. Also don’t be showy with your iPhone, Chicago is a tough town.
R: Chicago is a city of hidden gems. The beauty is everywhere. I would tell any travelers to not miss the obvious beauties: downtown’s skyscrapers, the Lakefront, Millennium Park, The Art Institute but to also take the time to explore Chicago’s ethnically and culturally diverse neighborhoods and to eat their way across the city. Some of the greatest food in the world is right here.
Some of my favorite gems include the view of Chicago’s skyline from Montrose or Diversey Harbors, the stairwell in the Museum of Contemporary Art and Jeanne Gang’s Nature Boardwalk Pavilion in Lincoln Park. It looks like nothing until you stand inside it and see the perfectly framed skyline. I would also really recommend a summertime kayak tour of downtown along the Chicago River. There really is nothing like the view of Chicago from there.
Nature Boardwalk Pavilion by Ruth
Name one thing you love and dislike about Chicago?
F: The one thing I love about Chicago is that is an amazing “walking city”. Walking throughout this lively city of architecture, a variety of neighborhoods, the lakefront, and urban life is fantastic.
The one thing I hate is that the best weekend escapes from Chicago involve a flight. I guess I was spoiled as a Californian since there are a number of good weekend escapes within driving distance up and down the coast or to the mountains. In Chicago, in order to get into better weather or a place with as much creative diversity and nightlife, you pretty much need to fly out.
I: It is hard to pick just one. I love Chicago’s food, architecture, history and the many different neighborhood’s that exist throughout the city. I dislike Chicago’s pay box’s hands down, which you will find everywhere.
J: I love the modest Midwestern work ethic. I hate winter.
R: I love Chicago. It’s a city of great contradictions and Chicagoans are no exception. Tough and real and proud, both honest and corrupt, but with a real soft spot for beauty. I dislike the weather. It is Chicago’s greatest contradiction.
Ry: I love how alive Chicago becomes with street and music fests in the summer. I hate the negative 20 degree winter days.
If you could pack your bags and escape for a week or two, where would you go? And why?
F: I would go to Vancouver, British Columbia because it is everything packed into one diverse yet small, city. What I mean is, there’s urban living, rainforests, beaches, and mountains all in one beautiful place. Everything is easily accessible and there are people there from around the globe. It’s naturally beautiful, yet has a vibrant urban atmosphere.
I: I would go to Paris with my wife, then make our way to Florence, Italy; Barcelona, Spain and then end our stay in Santorini, Greece. These are places that encompass rich culture, tradition, history and food. As you can tell, these are common themes that I’m drawn to.
J: Palm Springs. I love the desert.
R: I’m ready for a long trip to Asia. Japan or China or Thailand or India. I’ve never been east of Turkey and Israel.
Ry: Thailand. Not really sure why, but that’s where I would go in a heart beat.
Have you been involved with any collaborations or projects? Is there anything you’re working on at the moment (related to photography or not) that you’d like to share with us?
F: As far as IGers Chicago goes, we have collaborated with a few our members and other Chicago groups for instameets. For instance, one of our members who is an architect with a world renowned architecture firm, guided us on a Chicago Loop architecture tour. Currently, by April 1st we begin collaboration with a company called InstaThis for a big challenge, which will potentially lead to a bigger planned project involving a City of Chicago arts organization.
Personally, I am collaborating with Javier of IGers Boston and Bridgette of IGers Seattle to launch IGers USA, which will not only be an Instagram feed, but a webiite hub for existing IGers communities as well as users who don’t currently have a local community in their area. We’ll have a wealth of blogs, tips, events, and more as we move on beyond our launch.
I’m also collaborating with some music industry friends to move forward with the Chicago SoundCloud meetup community, which is designed for musicians, DJ’s, and lovers of music. I launched myself into this in 2011 with the help of some radio and music industry professionals, but that project was stalled by me due to my involvement with Instagram! We have some big plans for this summer.
Lastly, over at Tribune Media’s, ChicagoNow, I’ll be re-launching my old blog-site to focus primarily on the Instagram community. There I’ll be focusing on Chicago sights and sounds by utilizing the help of Instagramers as well as SoundClouders, app reviews, and other Instagram and Chicago topics. ChicagoNow-Relaxocat
I: I’m blessed to have a wide variety of things I’m working on right now. Photography wise, I was chosen to appear in Shooter, The First Photomobile Magazine. My work will appear in the third issue. On the acting/theater end, here is what I have going on:
I’m currently rehearsal for a play with Adventure Stage Chicago called “Augusta and Noble” by Carlos Murillo, directed by Tom Arvetis. We open April 13th. For more info go to: http://www.adventurestage.org/pages/augusta_and_noble/246.php
UrbanTheater Company has a reading series that recently kicked off called R.A.W. (Real. Aggressive. Writing.). We’re presenting work from playwrights of color, while maintaining a Community Conexión and making quality theater easily accessible to the Humboldt Park community. – http://urbantheaterchicago.org/2013/02/r-a-w-real-agressive-writing/
Lastly, I’m a finalist for Ketel One Vodka’s Modern Hispanic Gentlemen for my work with UrbanTheater company and community. It’s a People’s Choice Award and voting goes until April 15th. If I win, a donation goes to my charity of choice, which is La Casa Norte. Their mission is to help families confronting homelessness. So please vote to help me win! – http://www.modernhispanicgentlemen.com/
City View by Ivan
J: I run @thepublicimage #publicimage with @ryanpostel we high light out favorite IG shots. I curate the public lobby at 35 E. Grand and have a few events planned including an IG event that will bring the biggest and best of IG shooters to Chicago.
R: I’ve never done a photography collaboration until recently where I edited a beautiful abstract shot by @dpicts (IG). He’s 14 and I felt honored that he asked me.
Ry: I regularly do collaborations and always welcome it. Nothing else I’m working on at the moment that I can legally share.
Give us an inside look as to what a “typical” weekend is like for you. Are you a planner or a last minute type person?
F: I’m both a planner and a last-minute type. Whenever I have a plan, someone will inevitably tell me about something else that’s interesting. My typical weekends involve some time set aside on Saturday afternoons for impromptu photo-walks. I spend a lot of time with friends. The evenings are filled with either music, art, or my other favorite pastime, dining! Sundays for the last several years are centered around brunch with friends – a tradition I’ve been organizing since 2007. Sunday nights are generally about planning for the upcoming week of social media tasks or catching up with friends who don’t live in Chicago.
I: My schedule is all over the place, so typical doesn’t exist as often.
On the weekends, I’m either rehearsing or working an event. But, despite my schedule, I always try to spend some quality with my wife. I’m a mix between being a planner and a last minute person, but definitely lean more towards the second one.
J: Have two kids so I work around what ever they have going on. Lots of pick ups and driving. I wake up every morning and walk to one of my favorite coffee shops. Take the dog to Montrose Beach.
R: I really have no typical weekend. It really depends on what my kids have planned, what my work schedule is like, what the weather holds and whether I’m in town or not. I really don’t like my weekends to be overly scheduled.
Ry: I’m a very last minute person. Theres no typical weekend for me. It all depends on what my friends and family are doing. If I have any free time I try to find a part of the city to go shooting in.
Feel free to answer a, b and/or c:
a) Who’s on your music playlist these days?
F: Portugal The Man, Trombone Shorty, Massive Attack, RJD2, Savages, A Place To Bury Strangers, Social Studies, Atoms For Peace
J: My bloody valentines new lp, ASAP rocky, and maybe Gorilla Biscuits (to keep it real)
Ry: Ben Howard, Kendrick Lamar, Of Monsters and Men.
b) Which blog/site do you check regularly?
c) Which movie, released in 2012, would you say is a “must see”?
J: Argo (and my step brother is in it)
R: Beasts of the Southern Wild. It’s a gorgeous, gritty 16mm film with an outstanding performance by a child and a story of magical realism set in the American bayou.
Ry: Life of Pi
And finally, is there an area of photography that you would like to further explore? One that would push you out of your comfort zone?
F: I’m in the process of exploring film photography, specifically through a medium format Lomo camera. Many photographic styles found with mobile photography seems to mimic the look of Lomography. Through mobile photography we’re able to manipulate and edit our photos to look like they were taken from old analogue cameras. Lomo’s analogue cameras tend to give that appearance, but on film. .
I: I’ve been playing with idea of diving into the headshot market. This is an area that I’m familiar with as an actor, but haven’t tapped into. I would like to begin experimenting soon once I upgrade my equipment.
J: I don’t really have a comfort zone, I don’t really know what that is. I want to have a viable style without repeating myself.
R: I would really love to master black and white photography. I find it quite challenging to see in shades of gray. Also, comfortably taking shots of strangers and street photography is something that I find out of my comfort zone and I constantly push myself to take shots that feel like a challenge to me.
Ry: I have always wanted to take a crack at sports photography and a couple years ago a friend of mine got me down on the field to shoot a Major League Soccer game. That was pretty wild. I would love to do something like that again. It’s fast paced and such an adrenaline rush!
Fayth aka Relaxocat – A Chicagoan for over 15 years, I’m originally from Los Angeles. Photography and photo journalism have been my interests since childhood, with first camera at age 8. In 2010, after a few years of online media blogging at NBC Online and Tribune Medai’s Chicago Now, I took a break and joined Instagram for the fun of it. I also became an organizer of the Chicago SoundCloud group. Instagram and mobile photography became primary interests, which led me to launch Insstagramers Chicago. I’m now part of the founding team of Instagramers USA. I’m still on break from blogging, but not for long.
Instagram, Twitter & SoundCloud: @relaxocat
Photo by Omar Robles
Ivan Vega was born and raised in Chicago. He is a husband, an actor, producer and Executive Director of UrbanTheater Company (UTC), which he co-founded in 2005. He’s also a self-taught photographer and a foodie (with hidden desire to be a chef). *My Personal Motto: *Be bold. Be fearless. Take risks. Make a difference. Love. Contribute. Create miracles. And above all, smile while doing so.
Instagram, EyeEm & Tadaa: @ivanvega
Photo by Anthony Aicardi
Jason Peterson lives in Chicago, IL with his wife and 2 kids.
Jason is the chief creative officer for Havas, a global advertising and marketing company. He creates national campaigns for major American brands. Prior Jason ran Translation, a youth marketing agency in NYC, founded by JayZ.
Some of his professional work can be view here: http://www.youtube.com/user/Jasonxxxpeterson
Instagram & EyeEm: @jasonmpeterson
I’m @80degrees everywhere: IG, EyeEm, Twitter, 500px, Flickr, Streamzoo & Tadaa.
Although I am mostly active on IG.
My name is Ryan and I live in Chicago, IL. I produce and edit content for a healthcare TV network and I have a puggle named Robocop.
Instagram & EyeEm: @ryanpostel
I would like to thank Fayth, Ivan, Jason, Ruth and Ryan for contributing and for taking the time to show us what Chicago means to them. And, a special shout out goes to Fayth for making the music portion of this video happen – it’s a perfect accompaniment!
Next up is Johannesburg – the largest city in South Africa. So stay tuned.