The White City Workshop Recap

the white city
A couple weekends ago I led my first workshop with Chicago Photography Classes (CPC) – The White City, Part I. While I’ve taught before, this was a first with CPC and the first time teaching this particular workshop. Being a part of this organization is particularly great because early on in my photography I took some classes at CPC to learn the developing and printing process involved in film photography (so dating myself here!). It’s kind of like coming full circle to now be teaching there more than a decade later. Plus, it’s such a great, supportive environment for both the students and instructors.
A little background on this particular class. The focus of the presentation was to discuss photo projects and the inspiration behind them. This was emphasized by getting into the details of my The White City series which was inspired by Erik Larson’s book The Devil In The White City. If you haven’t read this yet, do it now! Even Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese are working on the film adaptation, so you know it’s gotta be good.
So, brief overview…the book is about the architect and plans behind the 1893 World’s Fair – lots of architecture details, city planning, city beautification plus the grim story of serial killer H.H. Holmes thrown in. All true, all interesting and written in novel-like fashion by Larson. Again, a must read.
A few years ago, in a very round-about way, this little photo series was born paying tribute to both Daniel Burnham, the fair’s mastermind, the grimmness of the city and Holmes’ actions and Larson’s poetic writing.
After an online presentation going into all these details and other project and inspiration ideas, we spent a full day photographing some iconic sites around downtown Chicago. Below are a few images I think work within the theme of this project.
The first is the new Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier…if you’ve read the book you’ll understand the importance of the Ferris Wheel. If not, READ THE BOOK 😉
the white city, navy pier, ferris wheel
The nearby Lake Point Tower was an add-on stop, the tree, the curves, the imposing perspective work well within the series concept.
the white city, lake point tower
Below is probably my favorite shot from the day. The foreground sculpture (Spirit Totems) created by Herb Alpert have an imposing ominous feel to them, in my opinion. The portion framing the background architecture of the Field Museum offers this nice juxtaposition. Playing off the city beautification Burnham was aiming for with the Worlds Fair and the grittiness of the city at the time, as well as the sinister acts of Holmes.

the white city, field museum
Cruelty Revealed

Our next stop was the Art Institute. I loved how the tangled branches with the early bloom of spring allowed the building to peek through. Again, offering the same beautification/grittiness juxtaposition.
the white city, art institute of chicago
The Landscape of Regret

A quick turnaround from the previous shot seeing the sunburst through the trees and the city behind…
the white city
A Blaze of Glory

One of the most beautiful hotel lobbies I’ve ever see, the Palmer House Hilton. The Palmer’s played a key role the World’s Fair, particularly Bertha Palmer who was heavily involved with the Women’s Pavilion.
the white city, palmer house hilton
Also in the Palmer House, because who doesn’t love a good spiral staircase.
the white city, palmer house hilton
The final stop of the day was Union Station, always a great space to photograph.
the white city, union station
A Shameful Secret

the white city, union station
the white city, union station
The day following our shooting we met at CPC for a few hours to go over post-processing and printing. Everyone came away with edited images and prints of their own. Here’s a peek at one of the student images.
by: Tikky Hes |

If this sounds like fun, join me for The White City, Fairgrounds of the Exposition! The theme is the same but we’ll be visiting new locations around the Museum of Science & Industry, University of Chicago, Jackson Park and Washington Park. For all the details and to register head over here. Feel free to message me with any questions and I’d love to see you there!
the white city



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