Celebrate Shrinkage

Over breakfast of warm biscuits and coffee my wife and I decided to experience the Chicago Polar Bear Plunge at Oak Street Beach in Chicago....I know what you're thinking. No way! We stayed on land, but I wanted to see what sort of people wouldn't mind a 35 degree bath in the morning for charity.

The most appropriate pair of trunks.

Why I love people.

People are my subject. It's a broad subject because as we know all people can be so different. Each new person is a riddle and it takes time to really know someone. But once you've spent as much time shooting as many people as I have, you can't help but recognize shared human traits rather than those making us seem so different. In my work, there is a mini journey that happens which has me love photographing people. It can happen effortlessly or sometimes uncomfortably, but the good of it happens every time and without fail.

This journey begins only a few moment after we've greeted and shaken hands. This is when all preconceptions about who each other are, are unconsciously made. It can be a guarded moment for sure and maybe the most guarded of the entire shoot because we've only collected enough information to satisfy our human defense mechanisms. This preconception we make is prehistoric and only gives us a guide for how to deal with that person based on past experience. But from that point on there's an opportunity for constant renewal of our expectations. As the shoot moves on we progress and reveal to each other. By talking, laughing and telling stories; acting so simply as being ourselves, we can surprise each other and begin to alter the preconceptions we made so quickly when we weren't even aware it had happened. Sure there's plenty of posturing in there too (it's photography, not psychotherapy) but even that shares something authentic about each other. By the end of the shoot, a small bond exists. Looking back at when we first greeted seems like months ago because we both have a shared something of an experience. Shared experience is exactly what bonds us to our friends. This is why I love photographing people because it so regularly challenges my preconceptions of people and offers me a shared and experience and bond with strangers. It enlarges my life and give me confidence that I know a tiny bit more about people as a whole, and who I am myself.

The portraits below are from a recent assignment for The Chicago Reader's People Issue.
Each shoot took about 3 hours and had me experimenting with stories I could tell about each person one frame. By the end, each shoot got very loose resulting in experimentation and sometimes the best pictures. I'm really honored to have met all these exceptional and generous people.

Name: Dr. Titus Chiu
Age: 35
Profession: Chiropractic neurologist. Website
Profundity: "I have to say, love is the most powerful medicine there is."
Location: Undisclosed indoor skate park

Name: Phoenix Askani
Age: 23
Occupation: Adult film performer on Burning Angel
Profundity: "I don't think that every girl in porn is fucked-up in the head, by any means."
Location: Phoenix's apartment

Name: Jake Nickell
Age: 31
Occupation: T-shirt design entrepreneur. Threadless
Profundity: "I don't have a business degree. I think a lot of the time innovation comes from amateurs. "
Location: Threadless headquarters