Creativity & Instant Epiphanies

Creativity in all it's forms is a mystery and a wonder. Although making photographs is my primary creative love and passion, in my previous artistic life I was a writer. I was an actor. I've dabble--with varying degrees of success--with music (the apex of which was playing tin whistle in an Irish rock band on the stage of Chicago's Vic Theater for St. Patrick's Day). And I truly feel that my enjoyment of cooking flows from all the creative possibilities that food provides.

I've learned that creativity cannot be pigeon-holed into one discipline or endeavor. It flows through all aspects of our life. It doesn't come to us in tightly defined boxes ("first, I'll be creative in writing, then when that's over, I'll be creative in photography, and when that's completed I'll be creative in cooking"). Instead of vying for our attention, all aspects of our creative life not only play well together, they enhance each other.

Recently, while combing through my hard drive for a particular file, I came across a  biographical piece I wrote for a writing website I used to administer several years ago. As I read it, the hairs on my arms stood on end and my lips curled in a smile. Instant epiphany. My philosophy of writing sounded so familiar. In fact, it sounded nearly identical to my photographer's artist's statement. I realized that my fascination for the overlooked moments in life didn't just start with making pictures of them: I was also very interested in writing about them. There is something so very comforting in this realization from an artist's standpoint: I have a focus, a direction. And it's been there for a long, long time.

I participated in a workshop a while back where we were given an assignment: think about creativity. Specifically, answer these three questions about creativity:

  • In your own words, define creativity.
  • Where does it come from?
  • How does it work?

I found this exercise deceptive in it's simplicity. At first, I figured it would be just some quick answers: a few ham-handed words and done. But the more I mulled over these three questions, the more expansive my answers became. I found that as I wrote, my thoughts came faster and faster, bumping into each other before my sluggish hands could get them out. My answers took on a life of their own. I was in the moment. I was in the "flow." And when I came back to my sense, here's what I had:

In your own words, define creativity.

Creativity is the ability to access the inaccessible portions of our consciousness and to synthesize seemingly unrelated concepts/constructs/ideas into something new and cohesive, causing our new creation to have a meaning which is greater than the sum of it’s parts.

Where does it come from?

Creativity originates in that elusive center of sentience. It comes from one’s awareness of the world (existence) and one’s place within it (individuality). Once this awareness is manifest, creativity is born of the fundamental drive to fashion meaning and order out of the myriad dissociative moments and events that make up that world every day. It springs from the desire to not only shape the world, but also to change it in a unique and meaningful way. It is no wonder that when humans invent myths and religions, one of the most important duties of the deity is that of creation.

How does it work?

Creativity works by allowing us to see in a way that exists outside of reality. If we think about it, being a creative means dancing upon that spider web of a line between sanity and madness. For instance, taken at its very basic nature, inventing stories is tantamount to imagining a world that doesn’t exist...and then saying it does. In some circles, one might be called “crazy” for saying such a thing.

But how do we see in such a way? How does creativity allow us dance upon that web? In all it’s mystery, creativity works by granting us access to the part of our being/essence/mind/spirit (insert your metaphysical construct of choice here) which is normally inaccessible: the part of us that holds the ability to conceive beyond mundane perception.

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So there it is. Your results may vary.

John on Steve Dale's WGN Radio Petcast

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I had the opportunity to spend some time with WGN personality--and my friend--Steve Dale, to talk about photographing pets for his Pet World show. The segment is a part of his special holiday edition...and now posted and available.

To find the show, you can visit Steve Dale's Pet World by clicking here. You can also find a link to the show at the WGN Radio website by clicking here.

I had a fantastic time talking pets and photography with Steve. Then after the taping, we had an opportunity to go on a photo walk together in downtown Chicago where we talked even more photography and made a boatload of photos.

And remember, to find out more about my pet photography, please visit CarusoPhotoPets.com!

The Photographer as Illusionist

I just finished reading a magical book: Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus. It's one of those novels which transports one to a dream world where things feel comfortable and foreign at the same time. It was a dream from which I didn't want to wake, and sometimes I feel I still haven't. I will not go into detail about this fine book here (plenty has already been written about it) but I do want to say that it got me thinking on many, many levels.

I just finished reading a magical book: Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus. It's one of those novels which transports one to a dream world where things feel comfortable and foreign at the same time. It was a dream from which I didn't want to wake, and sometimes I feel I still haven't. I will not go into detail about this fine book here (plenty has already been written about it) but I do want to say that it got me thinking on many, many levels.

This photograph seemed eminently appropriate for this post. First of all, we have the magician/illusionist. But since this was made at the cabalistic House on the Rock in Spring Green, WI it felt more than "right" for a post discussing Erin Morgenstern's book, The Night Circus."

One of those levels pertains to photography and photographers.

Throughout the book, we are challenged to consider the artifice and reality of illusion. As I tripped my shutter over the past few days, this concept rattled around in my head. Then in a moment of realization, I saw the photographer as an illusionist. We see the world around us. We interpret it through our unique filters and aesthetic. We then present it back to the world transformed yet the same. Every time we make a photograph, we create an illusion of the subject which is a wholly singular presentation of it. Certainly, no two photographs can ever be the same because no two photographs can ever be taken at precisely the same moment in time. But more importantly, no two photographs can ever be the same because they are necessarily unique constructs of the individual photographers making the images. One of my favorite things to do is go on a photo walk with other photographers. We walk the same paths. We see the same sights. But when we look at our final images it is as if we weren't even in the same zip code. What feels familiar in my photographs looks oddly foreign in my friends'.

In short, every time we make photographs we create our own illusions. We conjure them from slices of time and sprinklings of light. They are our achievements. They carry our stamp and signature.

So even though The Night Circus is not a book about photography, it is a book about the way our illusions--our creations--relate to us and the world around us. It is about the many paths we take to get to them. It is about our dreams manifest.

To learn more about The Night Circus, please check out Erin Morgenstern's website at erinmorgenstern.com.

A Great Day Shooting with Friends

Yesterday, I spent a marvelous afternoon making photographs with two photographer friends, Margie Hurwich and Jill Battaglia. We headed out to the lovely town of Geneva, IL and just wandered around, cameras in hand. What I love about photo outings with other photographers is the fact that each person brings his or her own eye and vision to the trip. I know for a fact that even though we all walked the same paths, what we brought home is going to be so very different. This only serves to illustrate the beauty of photography (and art). Even though the scenes and settings remain constant, artistic interpretation and vision can help us to see those scenes in fresh, surprising, and individually beautiful ways.

I also love connecting with other photographers to learn about their thought processes, what catches their eye, and the "hows & whys" of their photographic choices. Every time I go on one of these excursions, I learn about what makes other artists tick...and by extension, I learn a lot about my likes and choices. Being a photographer can be a very isolationist endeavor. Often, it's that isolation that can be very appealing. However, there is a lot to be said about the value of interaction and discussion. Too much isolation can lead to stagnation and block. By fertilizing one's creativity with new ideas, viewpoints, and techniques, one is able to move forward and grow.

Shooting with Margie and Jill was a great experience because they both approach photography with a different milieu. Whereas I shoot with an eye toward photographs I can print and sell in an art fair/art show setting, they both are involved with stock photography and book cover photography. Therefore, when we all put camera to eye, it's for very different reasons. this divergence leads to different choices in terms of subject matter, composition, and even light/color considerations. By experiencing a day of photography through different parameters it gives one a chance to expand one's vision in new and unexpected ways.

Three Pieces of Photographic Advice I've Received

Recently, one of my contacts from Flickr sent me a message asking how he could become a better photographer. He wrote, in part:

Ever since I started to take pictures myself, I've tried to take "good" ones. But it's not as easy as one might think. So I wonder how one can learn it. Is it just trial and error and educating the eye? Is there a certain education one can go through? What would be a good/a possible way to become a professional?

As I began writing back to him, my response began to grow much larger than I initially thought. I also noticed that my response might make for a good blog post, so here it is:

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I agree with you that making good photos is never as easy as it may seem. Sure, it's easy to point a camera and press the shutter, but it's not easy to make a "good" photograph. In my opinion, there are many elements that need to converge resulting in a shot for which we can be proud.

Certainly an effective photo begins with good technique. Understanding the tool that is your camera is important. Understanding the concepts of photography--the different effects achieved by altering shutter speed and aperture, for example--are important. Understanding the strengths and weakness of wide angle and telephoto lenses is important. Remember, too, that shooting with the latest or most expensive camera or lens doesn't automatically make one "better." The camera is a means to a photograph, not the photograph itself. Amazing photos can be shot on the latest DSLR or the most humble toy camera.

As important as technique may be, a good photo is much more than JUST technique. I feel a strong personal vision is at the heart of a good photo. One uses technique to bring this vision to life. So what encompasses this vision? It's the way you see the world: the subject choices you make, the way you choose to compose those subjects, and the way you use your camera to capture those subjects.

Certainly, there are many photographers who attend school to learn the craft of photography. It's a great way to learn about many of the nuances of the medium. But it's not the only way. I feel a strong photography eduction can be achieved on one's own. The most important way to get to where you want to be is to immerse yourself in photography. Look at as many photographs as you can, in as many different styles as possible. Peruse Flickr and other photo sites. Read books on photography AND on other photographers. Visit museums and galleries. While you're taking in all these photographs, make sure you are looking at them actively. In other words, study them. If you like a photo, think about WHAT you like about it. If you don't like one, what is it that you're not connecting with. Eventually, you will begin to see a pattern developing regarding your tastes.

But of course, all your studying of photographs shouldn't take place in a vacuum. From day one, just start making photographs, and make a lot of them. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was to make sure you have a camera with you at all times...and use it. It can be an SLR, a digital point and shoot, a disposable film camera, even the camera on your phone: just so long as you have one with you and you use it. Becoming a photographer doesn't happen by osmosis. Just having a camera at your side or in your pocket doesn't get exposures onto the film or the sensor. So start shooting and make a habit of it.

The second piece of important advice I received was to not be afraid of making bad photographs. We can't learn what our vision is by not experimenting. And when we experiment, we necessarily will make photos that don't work. In order to make "good" photos, we need to make a lot of bad ones. This is part of our education. You will begin to notice the more photos you make, the more you begin to see the world photographically. When this happens, it is a revelation you will carry with you each time you put camera to eye.

Finally, you need to be true to your own aesthetic and vision. Shoot what excites you, what you can be passionate about. Too often I see photographers burn out because they shoot what they think other people will like, what they think should sell, or what they think is "important." Ultimately, they ignore their own passions and interests in favor of what they (incorrectly) believe to be "right." The only right subject is the subject that is right for you.

Sorry if this was a bit long winded and didactic, but like I said, I love talking photography with other photographers. If you have any other questions, please feel free to drop me a message.

Green Egress

Green Egress I love going on photo walks with other photographers. I recently spent some time in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood with my photographer friend Margie Hurwich (www.margiehurwichphotography.com). The thing I love about doing this is that even though both photographers walk the same places and see the same things, each one comes home with an entirely different--and unique--interpretation of the walk. It is a fascinating look into the ways each photographer sees the world around him or her.

During this walk, I paused for a moment to capture this scene of this wonderful green door in an alcove. I know that Margie's interpretation of the exact same scene is going to be quite different than mine, reflecting our divergent visions--and the divergent ways in which photography as a medium can present our world and experiences.

The Official Launch of CarusoPhoto.Info, John Caruso's Photography Blog

Welcome to the official launch of CarusoPhoto.Info, the new home for my photography blog! From the beginning of my blogging experience, I was using Wordpress.com. The blog was found at carusophoto.wordpress.com. Recently, I decided to move my blog to a dedicated web address, and so I chose CarusoPhoto.Info. I feel this will be a perfect companion to my main website, CarusoPhoto.com. Please note that I have kept the old blog active so that any links to specific posts will not be broken. However, I will no longer be posting to that blog. CarusoPhoto.Info is where the action is now.

I will maintain the same blogging philosophy on this new blog. I will still be posting semi-daily photos. I will still have information on upcoming shows, events, and other tid-bits. I will also still make posts on random thoughts and musings.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment in the comments section. Or, to contact me directly, you can send a message to john@carusophoto.com.

For those of you who were RSS subscribers to the old site, please remember to update your feed settings to continue receiving blog updates.

Thanks for visiting. I look forward to seeing you here at CarusoPhoto.Info.

Cheers,

John Caruso

This Weekend in Geneva

[caption id="attachment_1281" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="The crowds enjoyed the beautiful weather at the Geneva Art Fair last summer. I hope to see you there this weekend."][/caption]

What a summer it has been! I am so happy that I have been able to visit with so many people at the art shows this summer. One of my favorite things about doing these shows is the fact that I have an opportunity to talk photography and art with all you knowledgeable people. It is very exciting for me.

I am also glad that people are responding to the two new photo sizes I am offering this year: 4x6 prints matted or matted & framed to 8x10, and the big 16x24 prints matted & framed (only) to 24x32. Of course, my traditional sizes are still available as well.

Coming off of two very strong shows in Evanston and St. Joseph (MI), I am excited to continue the run at one of my favorite shows, the Geneva Arts Festival. This will be my fourth summer in Geneva, and I hope to see many of you who attended every year.

Here, then, are the specifics for this weekend:

The Geneva Arts Festival July 24 & 25, 2010 On Third Street Geneva, IL 10 am - 5:00 pm

Geneva, a chic and charming historic town located on the Fox River, will celebrate its ninth Annual Fine Arts Fair in 2010. Its prestigious reputation of offering a superb selection of fine art by renowned artists and cutting-edge newcomers attracts beginning and avid collectors.

Presented by the Chamber of Commerce, the show is tucked along shady streets among 100+ specialty shops located in Victorian-style homes and century-old buildings. A "hands on" kids art area, awards for emerging and seasoned artists along with warm small-town hospitality, offer a picture-postcard setting for this juried art celebration.

Of course, as always, if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me at John@CarusoPhoto.com. And don't forget that I am once again participating in the Capture My Chicago project. This project seeks out the best photographs made in, around, and about Chicago. The photos are voted on by the Capture My Chicago on-line community, with the best images published in a beautiful  coffee table book. I was fortunate to have several images published last year, and I would be proud to be included again this year. For more information, please visit my profile page at http://www.capturemychicago.com/users/CarusoPhoto.

I look forward to seeing you very soon!

Cheers,

John

e-mail: John@CarusoPhoto.com web: www.CarusoPhoto.com

John Caruso (CarusoPhoto) at Krasl Art Fair (St. Joseph, Michigan)

I have been having a marvelous time connecting with everyone who has been coming out to support the arts this summer. Thank you to everyone who has stopped by my booth to take a look, to chat, or to purchase a photograph. I truly enjoy meeting each and every one of you.
This weekend I am headed east for my first out-of-state show. I will be in the lake-front town of St. Joseph, Michigan, just a lovely car-ride away from Chicago through some beautiful scenery. I am thrilled to be a part of this show that boasts many fine artists from all across the country. It will be a very special weekend indeed.
Here, then, are the specifics for this weekend:

Krasl Art Fair on the Bluff July 10 & 11, 2010 707 Lake Boulevard Saint Joseph, MI 49085 10 am - 5:00 pm
"Best Artists, Best Sales" is the commitment of the art fair committee for the 49th annual Krasl Art Fair on the Bluff to be held on July 10 and 11, 2010 come rain or shine.
The Krasl Art Fair on the Bluff attracts crowds of 70,000, but if you are visiting from out of town, no worries. There are ample hotels, motels and bed & breakfasts in the area plus shopping in St. Joseph's quaint downtown as well as Benton Harbor. Come join us for a relaxing, fun weekend, where you are sure to find the art you are seeking.

The venue, atop the bluff of Silver Beach, provides one of the most spectacular views of Lake Michigan coupled with the high quality of artists, truly earns the Krasl Art Fair on the Bluff its status as one of the top 100 art fairs in the nation. Sunshine Artist Magazine consistently ranks the Krasl Art Fair on the Bluff in the top 200 fine art and design shows nationally. The show was also included in the top 180 art fairs on the Harris List of fine art/fine craft fairs.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me at John@CarusoPhoto.com. And don't forget that I am once again participating in the Capture My Chicago project. This project seeks out the best photographs made in, around, and about Chicago. The photos are voted on by the Capture My Chicago on-line community, with the best images published in a beautiful  coffee table book. I was fortunate to have several images published last year, and I would be proud to be included again this year. For more information, please visit my profile page at capturemychicago.com.

I look forward to seeing you very soon!

Cheers,

John

e-mail: John@CarusoPhoto.com web: www.CarusoPhoto.com

Back up on the Roof and Other Places at The John Hancock Tower

I am just thrilled that I had the opportunity to go back up on the roof of the John Hancock tower yesterday. They are doing an update to their popular Spinner for which I made the photos about two years ago (see the posts, Excitement at 1000 Feet and It Was as cool as I Thought). So up I went into the glorious afternoon sky to make the shots that will become a new souvenir piece. As if that wasn't enough excitement at the Hancock for one day, later that evening I returned to the observatory to make night time panorama shots for their new telescopes. These will be companions to the day time panoramas I made a little while ago (see Panoramas for the John Hancock Observatory). I finally saw these new telescopes in action, and I have to say they are amazing. First of all, they are electronic. Rather than a traditional telescope to which you put your eye, these are screens mounted to a base. You point the telescope where ever you want to look and the live image is on the screen. You can then zoom in or out at your heart's content. On the screen, there are boxes that pop up highlighting points of interest. To learn more about these sites, simply click a button and the info comes up on the screen. But that's not all...you can press a button and choose to see either a day time view or a night time view. So, say for instance you are up in the observatory and a cloud rolls in, you can still see precisely what is there. Or if you are visiting at night, you can click on the day view and see what the city looks like under sun shine. Similarly, day time visitors can get a feel for the marvelous views from the Observatory under the stars. I am proud to have been chosen to be the photographer that provided those day and night time panorama views for these amazing telescopes.

If you get the chance, I highly recommend visiting the John Hancock Observatory. The views are simply beautiful and can't be beat. For more information about the Observatory, you can visit their website, JohnHancockObservatory.com.

I Can't Wait for the New Season to Begin

I am excited, excited, and even more excited about the beginning of the summer art fair season. I can't wait for the weekend of the 22nd of this month when I will be at the Riverside Arts Fair in Riverside, IL. This past weekend, we walked the show in Elmhurst. We spent time visiting with several of our art friends and had a nice time just enjoying everyone's work. However, as it does every year, walking that first show just really hammers home the fact that the season is about to burst on the scene.

Sure, I have some matting and framing yet to do. However, that is a fun time for me--particularly this early in the year--because I get to see my new pieces getting ready for their debut. And speaking of new pieces, I have a lot waiting in the wings this year. Look for these, among others, at the Riverside show in a few weeks:

[caption id="attachment_2287" align="aligncenter" width="200" caption="Unheeded"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2288" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Yin-Yang"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2289" align="aligncenter" width="200" caption="Red Door, Chinatown"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2290" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Lean"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2291" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Lucky Cat"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_2296" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="You Don't Mess with Rover"][/caption]

I hope to see you all at some point this summer. As always, I'm looking forward to a fun year!

If you have any questions about my schedule or my photographs, or if you need any further information, please do not hesitate to send me an e-mail at john@carusophoto.com. You can also visit my website, CarusoPhoto.com, for more information.

Cheers!

Why I'm Not Continuing My Second Year of My Project 365

Whew. That was a difficult title to write. Yes, I have decided to discontinue the second year of my Project 365/Photo-A-Day endeavor. It is a decision I didn't arrive at lightly, glibly, or with any sense of ease. In the end, I made the choice based upon what is best for me and my photography. When I started this project a year and 100+ days ago, my goal was simple: I wanted to learn about my relationship with photography. I wanted to push myself, stretch myself, and give myself the opportunity to grow as a photographer. Based on what I learned throughout the process, I feel the endeavor was a success. I tried new techniques. I tried new cameras. I gave myself permission to experiment. And most importantly, I allowed myself to fail.

One of the biggest advantages to doing a Project 365 is that it provides one with the permission to not have to make a “masterpiece” every time one presses the shutter. As an eager photographer who always strives to make the best photograph possible, this was an important--and difficult--lesson to learn. But learn it I did. Mind you, that doesn't mean that I don’t always try to do my best. In fact, being open to failure actually freed me up to being open for success. I've learned fear of failing can be a very stifling force. By not being afraid of failing, you automatically become not afraid of trying. And trying is the main component of learning. In that respect, the Project 365 has helped me as a photographer.

“So,” one may ask, “why did you stop?” The answer is simple: I began to stagnate. At the end of the first year, I was still invigorated by my Project 365. I was still getting a lot out of it. However, I noticed a shift in my thinking the past month or so. I began shooting just for the sake of “making my picture for the day.” I wasn’t pushing myself any longer. I wasn’t growing. I was just making a picture for the sake of the project. I began to feel like I was merely fulfilling a daily commitment. The joy was gone. In an ironic twist, I realized I began to shoot less because I would just shoot to make my daily quota, and not shoot for the love of photography. As soon as I realized that, I knew I had to take a close look at my motivation.

So here I am. I have decided that my post on April 14th would be my last. Appropriately enough, it was a photo of our kitchen sink because I feel I’ve photographed everything including the kitchen sink in the last year and a quarter. That’s a good thing.

I’ve also experienced an opportunity in the last few months. As of the end of January, my 22 year run at my “nine-to-five” job came to an end. One of the options I’ve been considering is making a run at embracing photography as my full time passion. As a result, I have entered into a new phase of my photography. I need to take it beyond a part time avocation and re-invent it into an everyday life style. Sure it’s frightening, but if I’ve learned anything over the past year and a quarter, it’s that the only way to grow is by taking chances and embracing one’s passion. I have no room for stagnation. I embrace what I’ve learned by doing my Project 365, and the time is here to put what I’ve learned into action.

I am still going to be posting photos...that hasn't changed. Some days, I may post several while other days I may take a break. In the end, it will be about the excitement of the images, not about the day of the week. And that is how it should be.

The 2010 Summer Art Show/Fair Season

I am delighted to announce my 2010 summer show schedule. It is shaping up to be one of my best--and busiest--summers ever. I will have a booth at some of my old favorite shows, but I am also excited about some new shows I'll be at this year. For a complete run down on my shows, please see the schedule below.
I hope to see you at one (or more!) of these terrific events. If you have any questions or comments, please drop me a message at john@carusophoto.com.

Thanks!

John

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Riverside Arts Fair May 22 & 23, 2010 Riverside, Illinois Downtown Business District 10:00 am - 5:00 Saturday and 10:00 am - 4:00 pm Sunday

Currently in its fourth year, the Riverside Arts Fair is sure to please artists and patrons alike. Join us as we celebrate two days of art in downtown Riverside, Illinois. This fine art fair has quickly become a community highlight. It compliments and confirms the appreciation for high quality design and materials that Riverside residents and our neighbors find in this quaint community.

Hosted by the Economic Development Commission, supported by the Village of Riverside and the Riverside Chamber of Commerce, the festival is held in the central business district of historic Riverside. A multitude of fine art patrons, music, children?s art activities and more await those who choose to join us for this spectacular event.

Lincolnshire Art Fair June 12 & 13, 2010 100 Village Green Drive Lincolnshire, IL, 60069 10:00 am - 5:00

The 13th Annual Lincolnshire Art Festival features approximately 150 juried artists set up along the grounds of Lincolnshire's Village Green dining and shopping area. The free festival surrounds a serene fountain and at the festival center is a beautiful sculpture garden, bordered by pleasant walking paths and benches.

At the Festival:

FESTIVE FOOD--Visitors may enjoy a variety of fare ranging from fresh fruit smoothies, ice cream, Middle Eastern food and in addition to Flatlander's onsite restaurant they will also have a special booth in the festival serving food.

CREATIVE AND EDUCATIONAL FUN--Free hands on art projects for children. Additionally, kids can go on a scavenger hunt through the festival looking for different types of art listed on a bingo card and then receive an "Official Art Explorer" sticker.

FREE ENTERTAINMENT--Throughout the weekend, live music from acoustic rock duo Cirrus Falcon will entertain the crowd.

Fountain Square Arts Festival (Pending) June 26 & 27, 2010 Downtown Evanston, IL 10 am - 6:00 pm

For three decades, Fountain Square Art Festival has won acclaim as one of the most prestigious art festivals in the Midwest. With more than 225 artists, it's the largest and oldest juried fine arts fair on Chicago's North Shore. The festival is located on six city blocks in downtown Evanston with the fest's eponymous "Fountain Square" sculpture garden serving as its focal point. This urban setting creates the perfect ambience and embodies the word "sophistication" with an audience of more than 50,000 discerning, upscale art aficionados and collectors.

Entertainment & Attractions Besides the main attraction of world-class art, the Fountain Square Arts Festival offers a vast array of entertainment. A main music stage features continuous live jazz. In addition, the festival boasts a vast assortment of the area's best food and children's art tent offering art lessons and projects for kids!

Glencoe Festival of the Masters July 10 & 11, 2010 320 Park Avenue Glencoe IL, 60022 10 am - 5:00 pm

The Glencoe Festival of the Masters takes place in the prestigious Frank Lloyd Wright influenced community of Glencoe on Chicago's North Shore. Held int eh downtown among boutiques and cafes, parking is close and free.

FESTIVE FOOD--Visitors may enjoy a variety of fare ranging from fresh-squeezed lemonade, smoothies, snacks, wine tastings and more. Local restaurants operate continuously throughout the weekend.

CREATIVE AND EDUCATIONAL FUN--Free hands on art projects for children. Additionally, kids can go on a scavenger hunt through the festival looking for different types of art listed on a bingo card and then receive an "Official Art Explorer" sticker.

FREE ENTERTAINMENT--A variety of musical acts perform live throughout the festival weekend. From acoustic rock duo Cirrus Falcon to French guitarist Michelet Innocent, there's melody air.

The Geneva Arts Festival July 24 & 25, 2010 On Third Street Geneva, IL 10 am - 5:00 pm

Geneva, a chic and charming historic town located on the Fox River, will celebrate its ninth Annual Fine Arts Fair in 2010. Its prestigious reputation of offering a superb selection of fine art by renowned artists and cutting-edge newcomers attracts beginning and avid collectors.

Presented by the Chamber of Commerce, the show is tucked along shady streets among 100+ specialty shops located in Victorian-style homes and century-old buildings. A "hands on" kids art area, awards for emerging and seasoned artists along with warm small-town hospitality, offer a picture-postcard setting for this juried art celebration.

Art in Your Eye Festival August 14 & 15, 2010 Downtown Batavia, IL 10:00 am - 5:00 Saturday and 10:00 am - 4:00 pm Sunday

The Art In Your Eye Festival enters its sixth year at the beautiful Riverwalk on the Fox in downtown Batavia. Sponsored by the City of Batavia, the festival is a collaborative effort with other key organizations and reflects the spirit of Batavia's artistic and art-supporting community. Art In Your Eye includes additional pre-festival activities focusing on art education, hands-on art experiences, and arts appreciation. The culminating two-day event at the Riverwalk includes the centerpiece outdoor fine art show, exceptional children's art activities, continuous musical entertainment, an indoor exhibit featuring local artists, food, and free guarded bike parking to attract the hundreds of cyclists traveling the adjacent Fox River trails.

Gold Coast Art Fair August 20, 21, & 22, 2010 Grant Park The Corner of Monroe and Lake Shore Drive (Across the street from the Art Institute) Chicago, IL Fri 12-5, Sat & Sun 10-5

A Chicago Tradition for more than 50 years!

EXCITING NEWS! The Gold Coast Art Fair will have a new location in Chicago's famous Grant Park at the corner of Monroe Street and Lake Shore Drive, across the street from the Art Institute of Chicago.

Heralded as the "Grand Daddy" of American art festivals, the Gold Coast Art Fair embarks this summer on its 53rd year of wowing Chicago. As one of the most highly attended art fairs in the city, The Gold Coast Art Fair annually attracts approximately 450 juried artists and 350,000 visitors from locations around the world.

At the Festival:

FESTIVE FOOD--Visitors enjoy a variety of fare ranging from fresh-squeezed lemonade, fresh fruit smoothies, ice cream, kettle korn, Greek food, and more.

CREATIVE AND EDUCATIONAL FUN--Free hands-on art projects for children. Additionally, kids can go on a scavenger hunt through the festival looking for different types of art listed on a bingo card and then receive an "Official Art Explorer" sticker.

FREE ENTERTAINMENT--A variety of musical acts perform live throughout the festival weekend. From acoustic rock duo Cirrus Falcon to harpist Ariane Lydon there's melody in the air.

West End Art Festival September 18 & 19 Stone Avenue Station (along Burlington Avenue between Brainard and Spring Avenues) LaGrange, IL 10:00 am - 5:00 Saturday and 10:00 am - 4:00 pm Sunday

Celebrating its 15th year, the West End Art Festival is a LaGrange tradition whose purpose is to bring a quality, fine art event to the Village of LaGrange and surrounding communities and highlight the west end business district. Artists from across the country participate in LaGrange's late summer festival that attracts art admirers and patrons each year.

Presented by the LaGrange Business Association and held in cooperation with the Village of LaGrange, the festival is held in the shadow of the landmark Stone Avenue Station along Burlington Avenue between Brainard and Spring Avenues. The charming and historic West End area of LaGrange provides a picture-perfect setting to showcase art. Other highlights include live music, food from local LaGrange restaurants and children?s art activities for an event to be enjoyed by all ages.

Lots O' Learning and Pictures

[caption id="attachment_1885" align="alignright" width="300" caption=""March of the Hors d'Oeuvres" was my first photograph in my Project 365/Photo-A-Day endeavor for 2009"][/caption] With a twinge of melancholy, I bid adieu to my Project 365/Photo-A-Day endeavor for 2009. I have to say in all honesty that this project has exceeded all of my high expectations. I have thoroughly enjoyed putting my camera to my eye at least once a day, every day, in 2009. In fact I enjoyed it so much, I know for certain that 2010 will be another Project 365/Photo-A-Day year for me. I just can't get enough of it.

I entered into this project  with a notion of what I wanted to accomplish, but I had no idea of how much I would learn about photography and my relationship with it.

[caption id="attachment_1889" align="alignleft" width="300" caption=""Knotting" is a photo I might not have made had I not been making a photo-a-day during 2009"][/caption]

Through the year, I paused a few time to reflect upon the project. Here is a recap of those verbal pit stops:

To read more about what I was thinking when I started this quest, please take a moment to check out my post from December 30, 2008 appropriately titled,

"Project 365." Furthermore, if you're so inclined, you could take a look at my 50 day update, similarly appropriately titled, "50 Days? Already?" my more cryptically titled 100 day update, "Day 100...or The Last-Call, Whiskey-Soaked Plan That Didn't Die," the rather pedestrian-titled half-year update, "And in a Blink, a Half a Year is Gone…," and the verbosely titled,"A Hard Time Seeing the Trees for the Forest –or- What I’ve Been Learning these Past 300 Days."

Things I learned or confirmed:

  • [caption id="attachment_1886" align="alignright" width="200" caption=""Fearless" was just one of my 365 daily photos I made during 2009."][/caption]

    Nothing is permanent. I started off the year with two primary cameras: a Canon 40D and a Canon G9. I've ended the year with a Canon 5D Mark ii, a Pentax K-7, a Canon G10, and a Lumix DMC-LZ10 as my primary cameras.Of course, in addition to those six cameras I've used many other cameras thorughout the year including: a Canon XTi, my iPhone, several Holgas, a couple of Dianas, a few Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slims, an Olympus XA2, a Canon A1, a Canon EOS 1, a Canon EOS 5, a Vivitar V3800N SLR, a Yashica Electro 35, a Yashicamat 124G, and even a Nikon F100. (If I forgot someone, I am sure I can be forgiven.) I have a feeling that the coming year will see a few more additions to that list.

  • It's not the camera. Photography is about the image, not the camera. Sure, the camera as a tool plays a part in the equation, but of all the elements that go into making a good photograph--subject, composition, story, exposure, and focus--the camera only plays a part in final two. And even then, it's still the photographer's responsibility to make exposure and focusing choices. The best camera in the world cannot choose the right subject for a photographer, cannot correct poor composition, cannot tell a story.
  • Photography should be fun. Often, when I tell people that I am doing a photo a day

    [caption id="attachment_1887" align="alignleft" width="300" caption=""Watch Out for Those Pans Monkey Towel!" was another one of my 365 daily photographs in 2009"][/caption]

    project, their first reaction is, wow, every single day? How can you keep up with it? In fact, I don't even think of it as "keeping up" or as a chore. To me, photography is fun.

    It's something I look forward to doing every day. Therefore, doing a project 365 almost feels like cheating because it is something I would do anyway. I am excited about being able to make

    photographs, and making photographs is something I want to do  every single day.

  • Even a bad photo beats no photo at all. Sure, I've made my fair share of clunkers this year. It would be foolishto think that each and every photograph that comes out of my cameras isgoing to be a masterpiece...and that's the point. When I started this project, one of my goals was to give myself permission to make a less than wonderful photograph and share it with the

    [caption id="attachment_1892" align="alignleft" width="199" caption=""Shadow Interview" is but another one of my 365 daily photographs for 2009"][/caption]

    universe. If I am always

    concerned with making a perfect photograph each and every time I press the shutter, I find that my photographs do not get better, they get worse.I see safety in them. I see blandness. I see a lack of spirit, fun, and excitement. If I am obsessing about pristine exposure and precise focus, I don't allow myself to experiment, to have fun, to explore thiswonderful art of photography. Photography is not about cold formulas and mechanical precision. It is about feeling, emotion, and expression. And the more we avoid accidents, the more we lose out on the wonders of "happy accidents." Some of my favorite photographs would not have come about without serendipity and accident.

  • A year is a long time...and a very short time. A year ago when I made the decision to make a photo a day, I had a hard time visualizing what my portfolio would look like today. Knowing that I would have--at minimum--365 new photographs was simply a concept.

    [caption id="attachment_1888" align="alignright" width="200" caption=""Childhood Memories: Two Dollars" made an appearance as a daily photo in 2009"][/caption]

    It'svery hard to think about creating that many photographs in one chunk. But as the days went by and as the photos began to stack up, I began to realize that the year was whizzing by at an alarming rate. It still amazes me that it was a year ago that I made a photograph of theappetizers in the oven. It seems like only a month or two. Really. But when I take a moment to reflect upon the body of work I created since then, I am thrilled by what I was able to accomplish. I have revisited many of my daily posts from this year and I find getting re-acquainted with some of my work has been fun...and has been a memory jog.

So as 2009 draws to a close and 2010 knocks on the door, I can look both backward and forward to a photo-a-day. When it comes right down to it, two full years of daily photographs is quite a marvelous thing...and I'm happy to be a part of it.

A Terrific Honor

Screen Grab from CaptureMyChicago.com

I am absolutely thrilled to announce that one of my photos has won a prize in the Capture My Chicago contest.

The Capture My Chicago contest was a fun and very interesting process. Simply put, photographers uploaded Chicago related images to the Capture My Chicago website where the photographs were voted on by the community. Once the voting period concluded, the votes were tallied up and the best photographs (as determined by the vote as well as by editor selection) would be included in a hard-bound, coffee table book and an accompanying DVD. To quote their website, "The Capture My Chicago book and DVD is a really exciting project because it's a combination of your best photos, our best photos, and a democracy-style editing system. With this new approach, the book will truly be the best of the Greater Chicago area."

And since Capture My Chicago was presented by CBS 2 Chicago, during the run of the contest they also featured some of the photos on their afternoon and 10:00 newscasts. I was fortunate enough to have several of my photos make an appearance.

The book will be comprised of eight chapters: Friendly Faces; Arts, Culture & Food; Sports Spirit; Scapes of All Sorts; Recreation & Celebration; Newsworthy; Pets; and Landmarks & Architecture. I was hopeful that my work would make it into the book, but today I received an e-mail informing me that I have been selected as a prize winner. There are 18 prizes all together: a Grand Prize, a Cover Prize, and two prizes in each chapter (Highest Score & Editor's Choice). What makes this an even bigger honor is that over 28,000 photographs were submitted. In fact, according to their website, "2,480 photographers...submitted 28,144 photos," and the community "cast 2,388,443 votes to shape the Capture My Chicago book."

I will learn which photograph received the honor next month at the presentation reception.

In the meantime, the book is available for pre-order. For a limited time, Capture My Chicago is running a special offer of $10.00 off the book...and free shipping. And, along with the book, you will receive the free DVD that contains hundreds of great photos of the Greater Chicago area. To buy the book, you can click here. To learn more about Capture My Chicago, please visit their website at capturemychicago.com.

A Hard Time Seeing the Trees for the Forest –or- What I’ve Been Learning these Past 300 Days

[caption id="attachment_1629" align="alignright" width="200" caption="John Caruso"]John Caruso[/caption] I am well aware of the fact that it is very easy for me to lose sight of the simple concept: “break down a huge task into component parts to make it more manageable.” Too often I see big projects as enormous and overwhelming. In a twist of a cliché, I would say I have a hard time seeing the trees for the forest.

My wife constantly reminds me to just break things down, do what I can do to complete one part, then move on to the next until the whole is completed. It is a lesson I understand intellectually, but one I don’t always put into practice. Whether it’s painting the kitchen or preparing prints for an art show, it’s the project in-it’s-entirety I see and not the components.

So when I think about the fact I’ve not only taken on this Photo-A-Day project but have kept up with it for 300 days, I have to pause and consider the significance. First of all I don’t want to gloss over that number. Has it really been 300 days? Or, to look at it in another way, have I really made 300 new photographs? Indeed I have. I’ve created 300 photographs (many, many more, actually, but at least one a day) which I’ve committed to and have been willing to put out there into the world, day-in and day-out with each and every turn of the calendar page. As I considered this accomplishment, it dawned on me that I’m building my own little photography-forest one exposure-tree at a time. (Did I really just write something as trite as that? Geeze…well, at least I’m committed to the metaphor.)

For the last 300 days I’ve been living a concept I often eschew, and it took me this long to figure it out. I’ve been quietly, methodically, and straightforwardly building a substantial collection of photographs one day at a time. Had I set out to simply create a portfolio of 300 images, it would have felt too daunting. However, 300 days—and 300 posted photographs—later, I look back and see what I’ve accomplished, just how large that forest has grown.

When I set out on this project, I had hoped to discover new aspects of my photography, my eye, and my style. I had hoped to stretch myself as a photographer. And looking back, I am delighted to note that I’ve begun to do that. I think about the new techniques I’ve tried, the new directions I’ve veered off into, and the new tools I’ve experimented with. I’ve done film work and digital work. I’ve shot with toy cameras and vintage cameras, manuals and fully-automatics. I’ve shot with five different point-and-shoots, three different DSLRs, and even my iPhone. I’ve even made photographs with a digital camera shooting through the viewfinder of antiques. What a thrilling and thoroughly satisfying project this has become.

Then, of course, there are the photographs themselves: 300 new images, some destined to become long time favorites others which I have enjoyed then filed away. I’ve shot subjects ranging from hors d'oeuvres to a candle monger to a towel with a monkey on it…and all points in between. This project has given me a freedom to shoot whatever inspires me because, 1) I need to photograph something—anything—every day, and 2) not every photograph needs to be a masterpiece. These are two key points. Making sure I press the shutter button every day has gotten me into the habit of making photographs. As with any skill, the more you do it, the better you get at it. However, allowing myself the opportunity to fail—or at least to not make the perfect photograph every time—has given me the chance to try new things and stretch in new directions. Just as importantly, however, it has helped me to silence the inner critic. So often, that inner critic’s voice can be so strong that it leads to artistic paralysis. If you stop yourself from making a photograph simply because you feel it won’t turn out, you don’t give yourself the opportunity to try new things. Nor do you give yourself the chance to open up to happy accidents. So often, my favorite photographs are those which I hadn’t planned on making. If I constantly listen to my inner critic, I don’t give myself the chance to play and experiment. Knowing that it’s alright to post a clunker of a photo today is made up for the fact that I always have a chance to make a better one tomorrow.

So today, it’s nice to stop here at a neat and convenient rest stop, 300 days into a wonderful and rewarding experience, and reflect upon what I’ve accomplished. I find it’s much easier than I thought to look at the little bits that make up the entirety of a project. I find it nice to see the trees instead of the forest once and a while.

And not only do I find it hard to believe there are only 65 days left in the year, but I also find it hard to believe I’m seriously thinking about beginning this whole endeavor over once the clock strikes midnight on January 1st….

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To read more about my on-going quest to make a photo-a-day, every day, in 2009--my Project 365--please take a moment to check out my post from December 30, 2008 appropriately titled, "Project 365" as well as my 50 day update, similarly appropriately titled, "50 Days? Already?" my more cryptically titled 100 day update, "Day 100...or The Last-Call, Whiskey-Soaked Plan That Didn't Die," and the rather pedestrian-titled half-year update, "And in a Blink, a Half a Year is Gone…."

A Guy, His Camera, The Hancock Tower, Blue Men, the World's Highest Lavazza Cafe, and a Helicopter: A List I Don't Often Make

[caption id="attachment_1225" align="alignright" width="300" caption="I had a thoroughly terrific time shooting the Hancock Tower and Blue Men this past Tuesday."]I had a thoroughly terrific time shooting the Hancock Tower and Blue Men this past Tuesday.[/caption] After several false starts due to uncooperative weather, I finally was able to do my photo shoot for the John Hancock Tower, Blue Man Group, and the Lavazza Cafe in the Observatory.

Just to give a bit of an update on why I was on the roof with three Blue Men: In the wake of my rooftop shot last July (Excitement at 1000 Feet & It Was as Cool as I Thought) and my Hancock Helicopter shoot last August (Hancock by Helicopter), I was fortunate enough to be hired to do another shoot, this time in the evening.

[caption id="attachment_1227" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Blue Men on the Hancock Roof...it was a fun as it sounds"]Blue Men on the Hancock Roof...it was a fun as it sounds[/caption]

The basic run-down was this: I got shots of the Blue Man Group down on Michigan Avenue in front of the tower, then moved up to the roof to get some more shots up there. At that point, I headed out to Midway Airport to catch a ride in a helicopter which whisked us back into the city where the Blue Men were waiting atop the Hancock for us. After photographing them up there, we made several passes around the building and out over the lake to get shots of the Hancock, the skyline, and the city at dusk and sunset. Finally, after sunset, we made our way back close to the Hancock to get photos of the Blue Men enjoying coffee in the Lavazza Cafe, now open in the observatory (the highest Lavazza Cafe in the world).

Although the entire night flew by so quickly, we packed a lot of activity (and memories) into a few hours.

[caption id="attachment_1226" align="aligncenter" width="200" caption="What a kick it was to lay on my back on Michigan Avenue during a Chicago rush hour as the Blue Men peered down at me and the Hancock soared up."]What a kick it was to lay on my back on Michigan Avenue during a Chicago rush hour as the Blue Men peered down at me and the Hancock soared up.[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1229" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Blue Man City--I like this one because they look like kings of all they survey...or super heros."]Blue Man City--I like this one because they look like kings of all they survey...or super heros.[/caption]

For instance, there I was, laying on my back on Michigan Avenue in the middle of Chicago's rush hour with the Blue Men leaning over me and the Hancock towering behind. Then I was shooting out of the wide-open side of a helicopter, making photos of the city as dusk--then sunset-- slowly rolled from the lake to the west.

[caption id="attachment_1228" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="As the golden hour progressed, the city came alive with warm light...then transitioned into it's own illumination by so many street and building lights."]As the golden hour progressed, the city came alive with warm light...then transitioned into it's own illumination by so many street and building lights.[/caption]

On more than once occasion during the night I thought to myself, "how can this get any more fun?"

I wanted to thank everyone involved in the shoot. They were all wonderful to work with, and truly terrific people!