Most of the time, I don’t like being “hired” to photograph people. Usually if I’m shooting someone, it’s because there is something I find inspiring about them. People ask me to shoot weddings all the time and I think with one or two exceptions, I’ve always said no. I usually say no when people ask me to photograph them for greeting cards or publicity photos or something like that. I think it’s because I’m much more interested in making art than taking “okay, everyone smile now” pictures. There are exceptions though. More often than not, if someone asks me and I have to think about it, the answer is usually no. If, as soon as I hear the question of will you photograph me/us, I immediately think – yes, then I usually go with that gut reaction. It usually works for me.

My good friends Bob and Sue opened up a little café in Lincoln Square and I’ve really enjoyed watching them create it, and I even had a little hand in getting the wi-fi set up. So I feel a bit of a part of it. So when they asked me to take a picture of them (and the other two partners) to put in the café, I said yes. For one, I really like the café and thought it would be nice to have a little of my work up there, even though it wasn’t my typical work. And second, I knew it would be an easy photograph to make. And if it didn’t turn out, it wasn’t like the sitting could never be recreated again. No pressure for me to work out of my studio element then.

So on the evening of The Grind’s holiday party last month I met everyone over at the café just after they closed for the evening and took a few photos of the four of them. Now the thing about taking photos on location in the evening is that I have to use artificial light. That usually means I have to lug lights and stands and a whole bunch of stuff over to wherever I’m shooting. It’s a big pain. Especially for something that isn’t going to be “art.” But Sue and Bob were pretty adamant that I keep it as simple as possible, so I brought my digital camera that has a built in flash and a tripod. That’s it. I taped a couple of pieces of paper in front of the flash to knock down the harshness of it and used the tripod so I could do a long exposure and get the back of the café to expose properly even though it would be out of flash range. And it worked. I actually like the photograph. It’s not art, but it’s a nice photo. One of my better “smile” photographs.

The Grind Cafe | Lincoln Square | Chicago

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