Smoke House

Abandoned Southeast

During the 1870s many people in the Southeast rejected the Victorian era idea of art reinforcing social values and celebrated art for the beauty. This cultural shift from 1870-1900 became known as the Aesthetic Movement. At the peak of the Aesthetic Movement a wealthy businessman purchased an 11 acre former college which burned to the ground during the Civil War. In 1883 he built the 5,000 square foot Smoke House.

20624505914_621872b2bf_kThe 5 bedroom 2 bath home’s foundation was set on top of the foundation of the burned college. Local newspapers regarded the Smoke House as one of the most elegant country homes in the state.

21323639222_af34c2d512_k.jpgEach of the 8 main rooms featured 14 foot ceilings and a working fireplace. Walnut built in cabinets and wainscoting compliment the first floor.

21460136762_a35f9c7150_k.jpgThe solid walnut doors slide open to reveal the library.

21255186351_facbe1c926_k.jpgIn 1905 the Smoke House was sold. The second owner updated the color scheme…

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Hillary Johnson Photography

Gung Hay Fat Choy! Today Chinatown Chicago celebrated the start of a new year. According to their calendar this is the year of the dragon.

As I was shooting today I actually began to feel terribly frustrated. How to make a new image of a traditional, annual display?

And then I began to reflect on my inclination towards masses of color, painterly notions of late. Pair this with an inclination to high contrast…and the whole thing made me wonder about how to pair what I started the day thinking were opposing tendencies. That is historically, I’m a people photographer but lately looking at landscapes (defined very loosely) and the fields of color and texture. You can check out the paintings of Richard Bruce if you like for one example.

If it helps at all, I love Ad Reinhardt.

Then looking at a video of Florence and…

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Louisville to Chicago Midway, 11/30/11

this is a tight picture.

Cornfield Meet

Last fall, I flew from Louisville, Ky. to Chicago Midway for a business trip. It was a cloudless flight, but it had snowed north of Indianapolis, so we were treated to a very cool view of the transitioning landscape below as it went from patchwork green to sun-glare reflections and powder white.

They’re not the best photos, being from the cell phone and dealing with the sun and the reflections and all, but I really like the way several of them came out, and I’m always kind of enthralled by the way hills and river valleys look from the air.

When we landed at Midway, I lucked into a shot with the Sears Tower (yes, I still call it that) as a vanishing point for shadows and runway guides:

The entire Louisville-to-Chicago flight photo set is here.

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Chicago biking forecast

It doesn’t get much better than this. Unless it’s winter. And you’re into it. Two weeks a year, is my bet, Chicago has weather this pleasant. Sunny fall days and windbreaker nights. I mean, this is August when it could, and maybe should be, sweltering. If I ride early enough, I can make it to work without really sweating. A surprise sprinkle would really round it out. I’ll try to take and post some new pictures using Flock, which I learned about this weekend from Walter Mossberg‘s piece in Saturday’s Chicago Sun-Times. I was able to organize several emails accounts, Facebook, WordPress, flickr, and YouTube, I think, together. It could help in developing a solid workflow that takes into account both my Mac and PC, prepares pictures for archives and smaller samples for those multiple sites. I haven’t played with the news aggregators, yet. Got way distracted with Flock’s Media Bar. It’s thorough. I’m looking forward to how well it plays with C-SPAN. Not sure if it’s portable, should be. Will soon find out.

And now for the goods.

perfect weather in the Windy City

perfect weather in the Windy City

See you out there.

IRE Convention, Phoenix, AZ

Wow. I’m still trying to figure out how to use the picture I took from my hotel room as the header for this site. The national convention seems to be the epicenter of the most elite journalists and those aspiring to be them ;). I snatched up just about every piece of paper, reprint and business card I could get my hands on. If you are a reporter and want to improve your craft, I highly recommend learning a little bit about Investigative Reporters and Editors.

I was fortunate to attend the conference as a Philip L. Graham Diversity Fellow, an award for minority journalists. Part of the prize was a priceless conversation with Joe Tanfani, a Pulitzer-prize winning reporter and now investigations editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In the coming days I’ll try to synthesize the tremendous amount of information I came away with and add links to resources and tips I picked up. But the best advice I could give is to visit IRE and seriously consider joining. According to outgoing executive director Brant Houston, membership “costs less than a cup of coffee a week, especially if you’re going to Starbucks.”

Enough of the pitch, hopefully you’ll see the tremendous resources the organization provides.