As some of you may know from my facebook or twitter posts, I have just been to Chicago to handle a little bit of JCH business (more on that another time). Whilst I was there I managed to find a thriving photography scene. Check it out.
Recently I had a call to come to Chicago to take care of some business. But you cannot just go to Chicago and not have a poke around and see the famous ‘Windy City’.
I guess the scale of the city didn’t really sink in until I actually grabbed my camera and hit the streets. Chicago is huge, and not just in terms of footprint, as it towers above you too. Skyscrapers as far as you can see, and stunning gothic revival architecture make this a brilliant city to walk around (I am a sucker for the gargoyles). The cold wind tumbling off the lake and the sheer size of the city make that a different matter though. But I didn’t have much time, so I wrapped up warm and got walking.
My fist stop was the fantastic Tamarkin Camera.
And I am really glad I did stop there. It was a bit of a walk for me (about 12 city blocks) but well worth it. Once I arrived there I realised there is a metro station literally right outside, so do yourself a favour and take the train. Once inside I got to have a look around, the store has a gallery and showcases full of the most beautiful Leica cameras and accessories.
Including a load of lovely black paint cameras. And some other rare bits and pieces too. I got talking to Dan Tamarkin and found a kindred spirit with an infectious love of cameras. Dan even had his very first Leica on a shelf (sadly no longer working) and was happy to pose with it. Who can tell me what he has there?
Dan told me about the store and Chicago too. We had a great time chatting and I learned a few things while I was there. He also had some bargain cameras on the shelf which I may be getting in touch with him about. Some of them certainly had stories written on them, and plenty more to be written upon them too.
Dan was great to talk to and has a wonderful collection of strange and rare Leica goodies, including Leitz sugar cubes, belt buckles, ashtrays and of course rare cameras. Including the civilian grey IIIc, Leica repainted M2′s and M3′s, and never been used M2′s in the boxes! Madness!
Never used. I don’t even know how that happens.
If you are in Chicago you really owe it to yourself to go and check out Tamarkin. The collection is amazing and the really really know their stuff. Definitely on the list of JCH trusted stores.
Check out their site too http://www.tamarkin.com/
After that long walk the jet lag definitely kicked in, so I headed back to the hotel for a short nap and then hit the streets again, walking the same distance again, except in the opposite direction. This gave me time to look at this immense city and to take some pictures along the way. I particularly liked the width of the pavements (sidewalks, fine), they were nice and wide and got plenty of light too, so you could really see the characters on the street, which was great for shooting.
As I was walking I found myself outside of a place with a name that was familiar, and is sadly disappearing.
Yes, Calumet. When I worked for Gin-Ichi in Tokyo we dealt with Calumet a lot, and they were always really nice guys, so it saddened me to see literally everything being sold, even the shelves and units. They had to get rid of everything. On the bright side I was able to get some T-Max 400 for $4 a roll.
The staff told me that everyone would just come in, look at something and then go and buy it online. Support your local stores, people. They need you.
Once I had got through the city, I found my self at a place called The Loop, which is a great place to shoot. There are so many people on the street and all of them friendly. One of the locals told me it is like a small town mentality in a big city, and he was not wrong. People would talk to me about anything…food, cameras, e-cigarettes, how crazy the weather is. It was fascinating.
But there was another reason for me to be there, not just scintillating conversation. I had come to see the famous Central Camera…
And I was not disappointed. This camera store has been here for 115 years, and once you go inside you are welcomed into a cavernous building full to the rafters with everything camera related. It is absolutely astounding to see. New cameras, old cameras, films, advertising and many long forgotten things too. The original Kodak sign out front was awesome.
The staff are all very friendly and are happy to chat. They have a small selection of used cameras too. But the best thing about Central was the atmosphere and the almost local camera shop feel. Staff liked to have a laugh, the regular customers would just go behind counters because they knew where to find what they want, like they had been there a million times before.
But it was not just that, it seems like Central is a meeting spot for photographers all over the city. I saw art students, hobbyists, tourists and pros all go in there. I met a few people outside there and I noticed a lot of film photographers coming to get their films done.
Central have a small but respectable selection of films available, and plenty of people coming in to pick up prints and negs. If you are in Chicago then you should be going there for sure.
Thanks to the delightful and energetic Mr. Eric Kim I was introduced to a great bunch of street photographers who showed me around the city, fed me the best hotdogs I have ever eaten in my life and were all round top guys. I hope to be able to feature them all of the site soon, a truly passionate bunch of photographers.
These guys really knew the streets well and it was nice to see a community out shooting. It seems like a lot of people know each other.
I really enjoyed Chicago, shooting there and checking the stores. I would definitely like to go back and shoot there again, I felt like I only saw a tiny fraction of this sprawling city. There are just so many great photographic opportunities that I would consider it one of the great cities of the USA to shoot. I hope that I will be back.