Introducing The Chicago Project Artist, Kevin Shick!
A lifelong Chicagoan, Kevin Shick has been photographing for over 40 years. His work explores themes of personal discovery and the current state of the human condition by observing, isolating and elevating quotidian aspects of everyday life.
Mostly self-taught, he started in photography by helping his father light, develop and print family portraits in a wet darkroom, and later accompanying his intrepid aunt during her photographic treks in the Sierras. Kevin has a degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois and an MBA from the University of Chicago. Following a career in technology and consulting, he now pursues a photographic life. His project The Commute has recently been featured in Chicago magazine and will be the subject of an upcoming solo exhibition at the Union League Club of Chicago.
The Commute depicts the daily lives of commuters on the Rock Island train line in Chicago, just minutes from their arrival at the terminal. This train passes by my house every day, and for years I’ve tried to ignore it, but one day I found myself fascinated by the morning light on the passengers’ faces. I started photographing the riders, taking pictures almost every day for several months.
I started out intending to capture only candid portraits, but quickly realized that I was seeing familiar faces day after day. So for four months on weekday mornings I would position myself and anticipate their arrival. My best friends became a cup of coffee, a tripod, a train schedule, and the people on the train I began to recognize.
I quickly got to the point where I knew when each train would be approaching that carried the commuters I had become familiar with. I knew when and where to look, but because the train moves quickly, there wasn’t time to evaluate each frame at the moment of capture: it was shoot first, edit later. Harvesting each day’s “catch” became a process of discovery, selection and categorization.
This series is about the power of habit in creating and expressing identity, so it is ironic that I had to develop my own habit of photographing every day in order to gather the images.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
― Kevin Shick
Chicago’s rapid transit trains can maintain a top speed of 55 mph, with an average speed of about 30 mph. As you can imagine, it is extremely difficult to photograph individuals riding the “L” when it’s literally moving faster than a racehorse.
Kevin’s images are captured at the edge of what is possible with current photography equipment. He uses a fast telephoto lens combined with a shutter speed of about 1/2000th of a second. Beyond the difficult technical elements, Kevin has to take into account lighting and the angle of the sun.
I found that spring and fall were the seasons that gave the best results; in summer the sun was too high and bright, and in winter it was too low and dim… But once I had my setup in place, capturing this series became a daily routine as comforting to me as I imagine the routines of these commuters are for them.- Kevin Shick
Select images from Kevin Shick’s The Commute series are on view in our current exhibition, The Chicago Project VI: Selections from our Online Gallery running through August 29th.