Shapes of Chicago - Portfolio Published in Lenswork  

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Growing up on a farm in Central Illinois, I was surrounded by fields of corn and soybeans. It was so flat you could see barns, silos, and grain elevators for miles in every direction. My hometown had about 700 people, and the nearest traffic light was 20 minutes away. As a young child, I remember traveling to Chicago to visit my grandmother. The trips were always exciting and I wanted to be the first in the car to spot Chicago’s skyline. I loved downtown, with the spires of churches and clock towers nesting among sleek superstructures.

I have never lost my fascination with skyscrapers and have been shooting Chicago architecture for many years. My first images of downtown Chicago in the late 1980s were shot with wide-angle and tilt/shift lenses, and most of those images were not really anything more than just ordinary pictures of buildings. Over time, I began cutting out the sky entirely from the compositions. I realized that the more I eliminated from the composition, the less the image was really about the architecture. I discovered that through abstractionism I was able to create something entirely different — a way to express a sense of balance and order, and the contrast of darkness and light.

Architectural abstract photography is a way for me to compose and create expressions of form, light, and shadow. This work is so diametrically opposed to everything else that I have shot in my career, I joke that it is great therapy. No matter what’s going on in my life, I try to capture images that show happiness and hope. It’s important to balance darkness and shadows with optimism and light. Just like the battle between good and evil that is happening around the world, I have hope, because I know that light will eventually conquer darkness.

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© 2020 by Duane Birkey