BP Bridge

Today’s Photo Friday theme is Metallic, so here is a view of the sinuous metallic curve of Chicago’s BP Bridge, which Gary and I walked across on our way to photograph the iminently metallic Cloud Gate, of which you’ve already seen myriad photos. (For another angle on the BP Bridge, see the second photo here.)

One of the sights I looked forward to seeing when Gary and I visited Chicago last weekend was Millenium Park�s so-called Bean: Anish Kapoor‘s large reflective sculpture formally known as the Cloud Gate. Given Chicago�s picturesque skyline, it�s a shutterbug�s dream to encounter a large shiny surface that affords an eminently photographable fish-eye view of both buildings and passersby alike.

The Bean�s popularity among professional and amateur photographers is evident by the number of Cloud Gate images that appear on Uncommon Photographers, a Chicago-based blog specializing in photos of photographers. Like every other camera-wielding tourist who encounters the Bean, Gary and I were unable to resist its allure, snapping shot after shot of light and image glinting off its polished curves.

When current renovations on the bean-shaped Cloud Gate are complete, people will be able to walk underneath its curved inner surface, an opportunity for even more shutter-snapping moments. For now, though, the sculpture�s underbelly and lateral edges are skirted with plexiglass, chainlink, and obscuring tarps while workers smooth seams on its underside. Even with these non-photogenic accoutrements, though, on its ends the Bean looks like a giant balanced egg: a huge chrome oval laid by some exotic alien.

A night-time egg-end view of the Bean was my first impression of its shiny spectacle: on our first walk downtown upon arrival last weekend, Gary and I went in search of the Bean, not knowing exactly where in Millenium Park we�d find it but figuring we�d know it when we saw it. When seen at night and on the other side of a concrete barrier, the Bean startles you at first sight: even if you�re looking for the smooth curves of a large reflective surface, the gigantic glowing eggy-ness of the Bean at night seems other-worldly, like nothing on earth you�ve ever seen.

Both amateur and professional photographers are almost magically drawn to photographing the Bean…and therein lies some controversy. Due to copyright concerns, the Chicago Park District initially prohibited professional photographers from taking pictures of the Cloud Gate, arguing that profits from Bean-based images belong to its designer.

Interestingly, this photo-ban defined “professional photographers” as anyone who uses a tripod, and photographers of all stripes responded by posting over 1,300 images of the copyrighted sculpture. When Gary and I visited Millenium Park, there was a heavy Security presence both on foot and Segway scooters…but we weren’t asked to cease and desist with our shutter-snapping since I hadn’t brought a tripod and Gary used my head to steady his camera. (This arms-length self-portrait shows Gary using me as a human tripod, and you can see in Gary’s post a photo snapped from the top of my head while I shot that initial night-time shot above.) Given the number of photo-snapping tourists visiting the Bean last weekend–including one tripod-wielding photographer–it seems authorities have given up their attempt to deny the seemingly universal and irresistible urge to photograph the Chicago skyline as reflected in the Cloud Gate’s shiny contours.

The downtown skyline as reflected in the Bean is cool by night…

…and even cooler by day.

Even viewed through a chainlink fence and obstructed by renovation equipment, Millenium Park’s Bean and the views afforded by it are pretty magical.

    This is the third in Gary’s and my series of SynchroBlog posts on our long weekend in Chicago. For Gary’s perspective on the Cloud Gate sculpture, click here. Tomorrow, we’ll share our day-long exploration of the Art Institute: stay tuned!

Jay Pritzker Pavilion

Today’s Photo Friday theme is Technology, so here is a shot of the space-agey Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago’s Millenium Park, where a state-of-the-art electronic sound system replicates the acoustics of an indoor performance space. With its curling petals of stainless steel, Pritzker Pavilion looks a bit like a landed spaceship, especially when viewed from the winding metal walkway of the BP Bridge.

Jay Pritzker Pavilion as seen from the BP Bridge

See Gary’s Photo Friday submission for another technological marvel from Chicago’s Millenium Park: one of the the towering video faces of Crown Fountain. Tomorrow Gary and I will share a slew of pictures of the nearby Cloud Gate sculpture (aka “the Bean”), so stay tuned…

When a place-blogger travels, she faces the interesting challenge of using the same old tools of word and image to capture a place that is new and unusual to her. This past weekend, Gary and I traveled to Chicago: a place where he has lived previously but where I had never been. Visiting a new city with a former resident is like traveling with your own private tour guide, and I would have never thought to go strolling on Chicago�s Navy Pier on Tuesday morning had Gary not suggested it.

Blogging is (or at least can be) a highly personal, individualized phenomenon: your blog doesn�t look or sound like mine, and my blog doesn�t look or sound like anyone else�s. Pundits commonly talk about the political biases of the mainstream media�but what about the personal biases of an individual blogger? When you read posts by Blogger X, that version of the truth is necessarily filtered through Blogger X�s perspective, preferences, and blind spots. If memoir is a highly subjective genre (as the recent hoopla over James Frey�s Million Little Pieces indicates), then blogging is similarly slippery: my place-bloggish view of Chicago is going to be flavored by my personal preferences and marred by my own perceptive limitations. Most women visiting Chicago, for instance, would spend at least a day or more visiting the upscale shops on Michigan Avenue�s Magnificent Mile�but as for me, I snapped several pictures of shop-windows there and then spent infinitely more pixels capturing photos of towering buildings and the impressive Chicago skyline. If you rely upon my eyes to give you a view of a weekend in Chicago�or of a year in Keene, for that matter�you�re going to get a view that�s necessarily both incomplete and distorted, filtered through my own experience.

But, if you had two or more bloggers covering the same scene�walking the same beat and photographing the same sights�you at least could triangulate their experiences by comparing their individual takes on the same phenomenon: what did he see that she missed? Touring Chicago this weekend with Gary, I found myself re-visiting the novel phenomenon of dual photo-blogging: what do you do when two cameras are aimed at the same sights and sometimes one another? As Gary and I found when we visited New York City over a year ago, two pairs of eyes see more than one do�but often there�s significant overlap as Blogger A says �Look!� to Blogger B. So how do two wandering, blogging shutter-snappers avoid redundancy in their posts?

As we have in past journeys, this weekend Gary and I sometimes shot distinctly different images: I have more pictures of mannequins than Gary does, for instance. In other cases, though, we snapped image after image of the same sights, each of us burning an unspeakable number of digipixels, for example, on Millenium Park�s reflective �Bean,� which will be the subject for its own photo-rich future post.

As we debated how to allow ourselves our own writerly and photographic personalities as we each blogged the same places, Gary and I coined the term �SynchroBlogging� to describe what we plan to do with our impressions of this Chicago trip: over the next couple of days, Gary and I will post our individual impressions of the same sequence of sights, linking to each other�s posts so readers can compare our He Said/She Said perspective of the same phenomenon. If blogging is one way of sharing both place and personality, then the old adage of �the more, the merrier� should apply�although I�m not sure if the waiter who was flummoxed to find me, Gary, and Armand of Moleskinerie fame obsessively photographing our food, cameras, and an impressive dessert cart during Sunday�s lunchtime meet-up would agree (stay tuned for Syncho-Details about that).

It would take a team of bloggers, I�m sure, to capture Chicago in all its richness�already, after spending less than three whole days in the Windy City, I�m compiling a list of things to do and see next time. And while Gary, Armand, and I continue to stew the idea of an Elastic Band Tour, Gary�s vision of a cross-country road-trip of Moleskine fanatics, I�m coming to realize that it might take a busload of bloggers to capture the nuance and complexity of places near and far.

If nothing else, SynchroBlogging affords many opportunities for mutual humiliation as He and She post embarrassing photos and stories about one another: another coinage Gary and I have brainstormed is �blogmail,� the cyber-equivalent of blackmail where you threaten to post picture X if your companion makes good on his threat to post picture Y. In tomorrow�s post, I�ll tell you how Gary had his self-esteem boosted by a theatre of Blue Man Groupies�but in the meantime, you�ll have to enjoy this image of a tranquil moment Gary shared with a not-very-talkative Metal Man, notebook open as he readied to record every word of wisdom from a deeply grounded Chicagoan. (Click on the image for an enlarged version.) Some sights, I think, are simply begging to be blogged at least once if not repeatedly.

    For Gary�s version of our walk along Chicago�s Navy Pier, click here…and check back tomorrow for the juicy details of the love-fest Gary experienced at Sunday night�s performance of Blue Man Group.