Photographers always seem to favor one subject or genre. Some specialize in sports and action. Others create images of nothing but food. Then there’s Chicagoan Tim Long. He shoots buildings.
Long is one of Chicago’s architectural photographers, but he approaches the craft not just from the visual structure of his subjects.
“I’m more interested in areas in which the history of the city seems inscribed in the buildings,” Long said. “The blocks around Van Buren and Dearborn are good examples. Facing east or north you can pick up parts of the older Monadnock, Old Colony, and Fischer buildings with modern skyscrapers or the new library, layered in right behind them.
“To me, it’s compelling to think about how the stylistic differences speak to the values and aspirations of the generations that built them.”
Long studied at Columbia College Chicago and U.I.C. He received an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in 2003. His work has been on display at City Gallery, Columbia College and the Chicago Architecture Foundation.
The craft of photographing architecture is not that different from shooting portraits. Preparation is key. Long always scouts a building before a shoot, both to evaluate the light and determine the best time of day to photograph it. His scouting—sans camera—helps him get into the architect’s head and determine the design strategy the architect used.
For students of architectural photography, Long recommends John Szarkowski’s book, “The Idea of Louis Sullivan.”
“The pictures are gracefully and beautifully made and are way more about the buildings than the photographer,” he said.
In addition to Chicago architecture, Long favors photographing buildings in Havana, Cuba.
The toughest part of being an architectural photographer? Lighting interiors with precision and finesse. “It’s murderously hard,” he said.