Take Me To

Photographs of Chicago

Dreams in the dusk,
Only dreams closing the day
And with the day’s close going back
To the gray things, the dark things,
The far, deep things of dreamland.

— Carl Sandburg, from the Chicago Poems, 1916

Downtown Chicago is a complex landscape, with distinct qualities of light, space and scale. I am interested in how Chicagoans are framed by this landscape, how they use the landscape and how it in turn affects them. Take Me To seeks to describe both urban landscape and urban psychology.

Downtown Chicago is also a dark landscape, and in this series I’ve chosen to work in black-and-white, which reduces the urban scene to the play of light and shadow. In winter the sun sets in the late afternoon, at around 4 o’clock, and the long shadows cast by the setting sun, and the tall buildings that crowd out the sky, can make the streets feel cavernous. Built structures shape the light; shadows contrast with human forms and can seem themselves like forms.

The city can arouse feelings of anonymity and maybe even alienation. Many of the people in these images seem lost in thought, detached somehow from their surroundings. I often mask or obscure a person’s identity through the use of shadow or distance to emphasize this detachment, and I am interested in how human figures can heighten awareness of scale. Storefront displays and media images abound in downtown Chicago, as in most cities, and here I look for mannequins and advertising images that also contribute to our perception of scale, or to feelings of anonymity.

Despite the many attractions of downtown, I tend to experience it not in contemplation but in motion. But while Take Me To emphasizes a kind of urban restlessness — even the title evokes movement with no discernible purpose — the process of photography becomes for me an opportunity to slow down, to stop and study, and maybe alter my perception.

Bill Guy, “Take Me To,” Places Journal, April 2010. Accessed 21 Mar 2023. https://doi.org/10.22269/100430

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Past Discussions View
  • Maritza Vales

    04.30.2010 at 16:35

    I enjoy how you express yourself in the photographs that you have taken. I am from Chicago and never looked at the city in the way you present the images.

  • Jeff

    05.02.2010 at 01:38

    I'm struck most by the resemblance of a number of these pieces to the paintings of Edward Hopper. I don't know whether you're aware of the influence or whether the theme of alienation simply lends itself to certain compositional devices and content.

  • Alicia

    05.02.2010 at 22:48

    thanks for sharing Bill !

  • Jen Litterer

    05.18.2010 at 12:06

    The work looks great. I really enjoy the way you play with space and leading the viewer through the image. I get a sense of that "cold" Chicago I so fondly remember.

  • Don Peterson

    05.18.2010 at 12:11

    Great project, Bill. Beautiful images. Thanks.

  • Dawoud Bey

    05.19.2010 at 16:31

    Beautiful pictures Bill. Clearly seen and deeply felt. Nice to see them.

  • Latrice

    05.21.2010 at 06:14

    Beautiful Images Bill. Keep up the good work!!!!