the arts initiative

During the summer of 2013, I spent many hours wandering the floor of an under-construction fashion outlet mall on Chicago’s outskirts. While the Forever 21, Hot Topic, etc were being constructed, cleaned and filled with Asian-made merchandise, a collection of 11 talented artists were dodging construction crews and creating original art pieces throughout the complex. Developer Arthur Weiner and Arts Initiative curators BooksIIII Bischof, Typoe and Cristina Gonzalez of Primary Projects kindly hired me to document the process, while artists Daniel Arsham, FriendsWithYou, Andrew Nigon, Jen Stark, Bhakti Baxter, Cody Hudson, Kenton Parker, Austyn Weiner, Jim Drain, Alvaro Ilizarbe and Bert Rodriguez lined the halls with their visions. It was an inspiring and exhausting endeavour, which is partly why it took me a few years to get these images on my blog (I got busy!). A huge thanks goes to everyone involved for letting me invade their workspaces. I still can’t get over the time and energy that went into it: Andrew’s hundreds of hand-crafted artificial balloons hanging from the rafters; Jen’s insanely colorful hand-drawn escalator design and elaborate sculpture; Alvaro’s weeks of laying atop a 30-foot tall scaffold while painting an entire ceiling and large foyer in super detail; Bert’s boxes and boxes of clocks, each needing adjustments; Jim’s snakes and colors that made my camera sensor give up; Bhakti’s hand-painted hypnotic foyer; FriendsWithYou’s trademark pseudo amusement park dangling from the sky; Cody’s super heavy panels secured expertly from the walls; Austyn and Kenton’s smartly prefabricated wall cover pieces; Daniel’s clever visions blended seamlessly into their surroundings, subtle and unexpected enough to make you do a double take and remember life is strange and it’s easy to forget this, especially while shopping for discounted shirts and new socks.

You can find more info about the project on the official website. Next time you’re in the food court enjoying one of Auntie Anne’s pretzels between clearance sales, you’ll have a bit of a better understanding of the countless hours that went into making an otherwise ordinary mall a little bit magical.

no comments

vic mensa for the guardian

I got an email from The Guardian asking if I wanted to photograph Vic Mensa for an upcoming feature. Of course I did! I didn’t even know it but I’d shot Vic a few times while in his previous band Kids These Days. I hadn’t realized they had disbanded and the Vic I’d seen on SNL and rapping with Kanye, on his way to becoming the next big star out of Chicago, was the same kid, just a bit more grown up.

Our shoot was short and the mid-day harsh sunlight was a challenge, but I found a fun little flower-filled spot with a well-placed DETOUR sign down the street from his studio and we made some fun images.

Looking forward to his upcoming album and whatever else Vic Mensa has in store for us. Be sure to check out The Guardian feature.

no comments

introducing haywood tavern

It’s been an awesome experience watching Haywood Tavern transform from an empty storefront on the corner of Augusta & California into a bustling restaurant and bar with really great food and drink list, both the creations of two dudes I’ve known for so long that I wasn’t even a photographer when I met them but ended up shooting both of their weddings and now their tavern. Chef Rodney Staton fills the menu with simple yet elevated dishes, Spanish-inspired pintxos, and a constantly-changing Weekly Offerings selection that has me coming back just so I don’t miss something great (a riff on Arby’s roast beef sandwich, beef belly pastrami, faux pho carpaccio, and rhubarb-doused cornmeal cake to name a few). Jason Baluton might get annoyed by my constant beer inventory suggestions and detail nitpicking, but he’s put together a welcoming space that more or less checks off every aspect of what I think a good tavern should be.

When I first moved to Humboldt Park roughly twelve years back, just down the street, the refined food offerings were nonexistent. Since then, many new establishments have opened and the neighborhood has changed in many ways. Some say the change is burdensome gentrification that’s ruining the neighborhood, however, I feel strongly that good neighborhood establishments with a sense of care and attention to the products they offer are vital components to any good neighborhood, and while the trend towards higher quality food continues, Haywood Tavern is a welcome addition and one that puts pride in me just knowing I had a tiny hand in it’s creation.

Go check it out and let me know if you agree. You can find more info on their website, which I also designed!

show hide 1 comment

Maxine - The food was AMAZING. The atmosphere was hip, but relaxed. I’ll be back to this cozy town tavern.

choose chicago

Over the course of many months spanning from late last summer until this spring (with a break during the winter hibernation months), I was assigned to shoot an enormous image library covering all things cool in Chicago for the city’s official tourism arm, Choose Chicago. Having just returned from a trip out west, I got back home just as summer set in and was immediately reminded why I love this place so much. These images only touch on the great things Chicago has to offer and are only a sampling of what we shot. It was an incredible experience; from shooting Wrigley Field at sunrise, to photographing airplanes from the runway at O’Hare, each shoot reminded me a little more about all the fantastic things Chicago has to offer.

A huge thanks goes to all of the locations for hosting us and all the people who let me photograph them. Thanks of course to everyone at FCB (Myra! Chase!) and Choose Chicago (Mina! Michael!) for the help. The job spanned so many days that I can’t possibly name everyone individually here. People involved at the start of the project moved on to different jobs (Nikki! Shana!).

Rumor has it you may start to see some of the images around town. You should also check out the #EpicChicago video that was shot as part of this project.

show hide 3 comments

Crysta - Mad Skills!

Robert Galvin - What a great Chicago portfolio, Clayton! So alive! Terrific color! Wonderful compositions!

Jenny - Sooooo good. Can I get a print of the 2 punks kissing and one of that handsome guy with Lyric? :D

experiencing google glass

I was recently sent on a fun assignment for Virgin Atlantic, which had me try to be a tourist in my hometown of Chicago while wearing Google Glass. I wrote a little thing about the experience and they featured some of it on their blog. You can read my version below.

- – – -

We checked in to the ACME Hotel on a frigid Thursday afternoon, excited to make the best of it. The hotel offered us the option of checking out a pair of Google Glass (Google’s future-glasses) for the night, which I’ve been interested in trying out. I was curious how my experience with photography would translate to the wearable camera embedded onto my face and was hoping for the ability to take some awesome, incognito street photos. After fumbling around for an hour, I managed to get the hang of it and set out with my girlfriend to explore the city.

It was almost immediately that Glass was put to the test: just a few blocks from our hotel, Chicago Bulls’ rookie Spanish-import Nikola Mirotić was exiting a restaurant. My initial urge was to ask for a photo, however, wearing the camera on my face and not yet used to its operations made this an almost impossible task (Imagine: “Hey Nikola, big fan. Look into my eyes while I take a photo of you, yeah? — OK Glass. Take a picture! — Thanks buddy, good luck on rookie of the year voting.”). I ended up maybe getting a photo of him getting into his car, while kicking myself for not setting up the Glass option of taking a photo whenever you wink (Imagine: me winking at a 6’10” man for no apparent reason).

Moving along, mostly to not freeze, we made it to Michigan Avenue and the Chicago River crossing. This is easily one of my favorite spots in the city. The gorgeous architecture is all around you, both modern and classical, as the river slices thru the center of the city creating a canyon of steel, glass and water, spanned by a dozen or so bridges. If this was the summer, we would’ve taken an architecture boat tour to take it all in.

We made it to Cloud Gate (commonly known as “The Bean”) in beautiful Millennium Park, figuring it would be a cool spot to get Glass photos of the reflections of the city and myself wearing the contraption. Cloud Gate offers countless vantage points and angles, juxtaposing the park, city, sky, people and pigeons. Just as the bitter cold was getting to us, Glass decided it had enough and quit functioning altogether. Chicago winters are known to scare off many; apparently technology is not immune.

To warm ourselves and my future-glasses, we headed to the nearby Art Institute of Chicago. While wandering the gorgeous new modern wing of the museum, the Glass slowly started operating again. We strolled past Renoir, Monet, Cézanne, Hopper’s Nighthawks, all while a security guard wondered what the hell I was wearing on my head and younger tourists stared at me in amusement and possibly jealousy. While sitting on a bench in front of American Gothic, I had the odd moment of realization that I was surrounded by stunning works of art and was taking it all in thru the screens of my iPhone and Google Glass; an unnecessary and experience-altering barrier between myself and the object I came to see. It was time for some fresh air.

We bundled back up and headed towards the brand new Maggie Daley Park, cutting thru Millennium Park and past the beautiful Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavilion which sat lonely, covered in snow on this cold winter night. Our destination was the ice ribbon, providing a continuous loop of ice skating fun and the occasional wipe out. I took it easy, all the while remembering the waiver I signed back at the hotel taking responsibility should anything happen to my probably-very-expensive future-glasses. Aside from the cold weather, ice skating was a great opportunity to use Glass and take photos more in the moment and from my own viewpoint, while my hands remained free (or at least it would’ve been had the cold temperature not made the Glass nearly impossible to use). After a few laps we decided to call it a night and get the Glass back home to safety.

The next morning, after a tasty “knock & drop breakfast” and tour of the ACME Hotel facilities (sauna! hot tub!), we hopped in a cab, drove past the iconic Marina Towers (most notably featured on the cover of Wilco’s 2002 album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot), to the Willis Tower (formerly and most widely known as the Sears Tower) to check out the 103rd floor Skydeck. We were surprised to see a 90 minute wait and worried about getting back to the hotel before checkout time. Thankfully, we were able to charm a manager with the future-glasses and cut much of the line (we still had to pay, unfortunately). Be sure to get here first thing in the morning if you don’t want to wait, or else you can head to the other side of downtown and try the John Hancock observation deck, which offers equally stunning views closer to the lakefront. The likely reason for the long queue at Willis was the recently added Ledge attraction, which lets you stand inside a glass enclosure 1,353ft above the city. Glass on glass. Terrifying.

After the Skydeck and some elevator selfies (is it a selfie if it’s a Glass photo of yourself in a reflection?), we wandered around downtown a bit, under the famous El train, down LaSalle St. where Batman was filmed, to Calder’s beautiful Flamingo statue as seen in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and eventually to Garrett’s popcorn for a tasty snack.

At this point, we had only seen a tiny portion of what Chicago has to offer, however, our Glass sidekick was due back and we were forced to enjoy the remainder of the day as regular, analogue humans beings, wearing our practical boring-glasses which only allow for improved eyesight. I winked at my girlfriend and merely got a kiss in return.

no comments