Images copyright Andrew Michaels. All rights reserved.
Intro by Skip Cohen
One aspect of the fun of a conference or convention is the people you meet. Today's post is a perfect example with a guest post from Andrew Michaels. We met briefly at ClickCon in Chicago last week, and after the convention, he sent me an email about a unique special project he worked on during the pandemic.
The main idea was to photograph a different train operator at each of the 194 CTA stations. I simply wanted to put a face to the L. I know a lot of people don't even think about it. After showing my friends, I would get texts "OMG I saw the operator at the front of the train!!" And from what the operators told me, it meant a lot to get that recognition...The message I was trying to send hit me harder than I intended. These people really are part of the community, and just like your barista you see every day, no reason you can't say hi and just smile to brighten their day. I got to know some of them, and they are truly amazing people.
There's that old line about "it takes a village." Well, take a second and think about the people in your "village" since the pandemic started. For Andrew, he wanted to recognize the team that kept Chicago's transit system operating - never missing a day of support for the community. And remember, they supported thousands of nurses and doctors who rely on the CTA to get to the people they care for!
I'm a big fan of special projects because they help you focus on essential concepts outside your business. In addition, they help bring out your creativity and spirit, which too often, lately, are buried under Covid's baggage. In other words, they help keep you grounded!
Andrew needs to be on your radar - visit his website and follow him on Instagram.
"Dedicated to the entire CTA organizaton for their consistent dedication keep Chicago moving forward."
by Andrew Michaels
In January 2020, I made a decision to commit full time to photography, spending January offering headshots and February learning squarespace to put the new portfolio online. In March 2020 COVID hit, so my plans came to a screeching halt.
With my studio-that-never-was on lock down, I needed a new creative outlet. I sifted through my phone notes and landed on an idea that I really liked: to photograph a CTA bus driver at every stop as they opened the door looking at the passengers outside. But with about 10,000 stops in Chicago, the “L” seemed like a better option, with 194 stops. In hindsight the “L” was even more near to my heart, given how many hours I’ve spent photographing classic shots like the Merchandise Mart and the Adams/Wabash overpass.
As I went about my work, kicking off each day with my morning coffee, I started to consider how the local barista becomes a friendly face in my morning routine. It occurred to me there's no reason the CTA staff shouldn't be embraced in the same way. It can make such a difference in someone's day to get a smile from a familiar face. I got excited thinking how a collage of 194 different operators could encourage the riders to connect with the workers. At the very least it would literally force Chicagoans to register the idea that these iconic trains don't drive themselves. It’s an obvious but often overlooked fact.
As I went about the project, I was amazed at how many times an operator - who I previously photographed, would appear days/weeks/months later at a different stop. It was serendipitous to see, even with such a sprawling organization, I might cross paths with these people over and over. In fact, the very first operator I photographed, Calvin, was spotted 3 times before I finished the project.
In rail transit, a “meet” is a situation in which a train traveling in one direction "meets" another traveling in the opposite direction. Growing up, I was pretty shy, so my family would encourage me to push outside my comfort zone, stressing the importance of meeting new people. “You never know who you’re going to meet…” implying at any moment, you can make friends with a stranger who may become the most important person in your life years later. On a micro level, this project proves that to be true.
I ended up leaving many of the duplicate people in the final collage to reinforce the lesson I was taught growing up, and during the project- treat every stranger you meet as if you will meet them again.
Sorry, but a blog post doesn't really do the collage above justice, but I know you'll get the idea! Check out “Familiar Faces” on instagram.com/statestreetphotostudio .The posts are more visible and the “Familiar Faces” highlight shows BTS/ video content as well.
Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.