Northeastern Illinois University’s (NEIU) new El Centro building has been on my radar for months. I first noticed it last summer while it was under construction, as it’s definitely a standout when driving along the Kennedy. Not only do the vibrant blue and yellow fins seem to move with you as you pass by but there’s a sculptural quality to the building as a whole. If you’re approaching this from a photographic standpoint, it’s as interesting up close as it is from a distance so you definitely want spend a fair amount of time exploring the building (both the outside and inside). There are so many ways to photographically play with the lines, color, reflections and form of the building.
If you follow my work, you know I rarely photograph a building in its entirety. I was having a FB conversation with a fellow photographer last night and we were discussing how there’s something about focusing on the details that allows a more thorough appreciation of the building as a whole. Kind of a forced way to slow down and look at things more closely and with greater thought. I also very much prefer clean lines and a sense of order in my images, and often that’s hard to do when you include the whole building. Generally, not because of the building, but because it’s hard to eliminate the chaos surrounding the structure…cars, power lines, unattractive fences, dirty snow piled up, etc. So, my way of dealing with this is to isolate portions of the building when I shoot. It’s just what works for me. Though I know people often like to know what it is they’re looking at as a whole, for this building in particular check out JGMA architects site, here.
In a way, I’m glad it took me awhile to get over here. First, I needed a bright, clear, crisp day to get the images I had envisioned. I wanted that intense blue sky since I knew it would play well with the yellow in the building. Second, had it not taken me forever to get over here I would have missed the way the white of the snow also compliments the vibrant blue and yellow as well as the black at the base of the building. The snow sticking to the blue side of the fins also made for an interesting element. Having this (relatively) clean, white blanket of snow made for some interesting black and white versions. Something I had no intentions of making when I envisioned shooting this building. Sometimes we get lucky.
And, speaking of luck…I happened to arrive at about the same time as two of the building’s architects (JGMA architects). This was the first time I’ve ever actually met an architect of one of the building’s I’m photographing, to say I was excited is an understatement. Too bad I couldn’t come up with much more than saying how “cool” I thought the building was. Let’s hope my appreciation and admiration of their work comes through in the images.
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Because you know I can’t completely stay away from black and white, here are some exterior b&w shots as well as some from the interior. To see every single image I edited, both color and b&w, click here.
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8 Responses

  1. More great photos Angie and I love your clean, bright and ordered details. True geometry shown in multiple planes. Now, here's a question: Are you concerned about leaving out a big part of the story by not showing more of these living sculptures? I'm not saying that the "big picture" photos of buildings should dominate a series but like film/video - long, medium and close-up shots are used to tell the story and ad depth to the characters - long and medium shots of a building can add to the overall appreciation of the structure. You know, a frame of reference for the viewer.
    Just a thought that comes to my mind.

    1. Hi Rich, I definitely get what you're saying. I occasionally do shoot wider but generally don't like the images, so they end up deleted or sitting on my hard drive . I guess my goal when creating photos is to create art out of art , if that makes sense.
      If my goal were telling the full story of the building, then yes, including wide, mid-range and detail shots would be much more important. My issue with the wider shots is that things feel chaotic and un-orderly and I usually don't think they're all that fun to shoot. To me that's purely representation, as if you're shooting to document. That's not my intent.
      If I were shooting for the architect or a magazine, then absolutely that's how I'd approach the building. That's necessary for something editorial or marketing purposes.
      I guess my ultimate goal isn't to tell the whole story, it's to attempt to create something artistic, a different way of seeing the obvious. Does that make sense?
      Maybe it's the wrong way to approach things but it's what works for me and what makes photography fun for me.

      1. I pretty much knew what your response would be Angie and I know what you mean totally. As you know, when it comes to this photography stuff there is no right or wrong, only what makes us feel good. I congratulate you on the connection with JGMA. What a cool opportunity. See you soon.

  2. Angie!
    You never disappoint. These pictures are truly stunning. I'm sure if the architects see these, they will have the same reaction. :) You've captured the building brilliantly. Thanks for sharing.
    Melissa -

    1. Melissa,
      You are correct, the photos didn't disappoint the architects at all. We are humbled to say the least by Angie's ability to capture our work.

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