Chicago In Black And White: Street Corner Magic Show

Welcome to the fifth post in a series of posts documenting Chicago using black and white film. Chicago is full of street corners and, especially in the more "touristy oriented" sections of the city, full of street corner performers. If you walk up and down the "Magificent Mile" or around "The Loop" you will likely find a number of corners where people have set up shop to entertain the pedestrians in exchange for tips. One of the more active corners I've found over the years is on Mighigan Avenue just North of the Chicago River. This street corner is right next to the ront of the Wrigley Building and has a nice large area for entertainers to set up. On our most recent trip, there was a Magic Show set up on the corner, just in front of one of the Michigan Avenue bridge sculptures:

A Magic Show On The Street Corner Near The Wrigley Building In Chicago

Motivation And Information

I made this photograph in the afternoon, after a fantastic lunch at Frontera Grill. We were walking around after stuffing ourselves with tasty Mexican -inspired food from the mind of Rick Bayless. We decided to visit the Wrigley Building to see if I could get any good photographs of the building. There were a lot of people on the sidewalk and it was really tough for me to get any image of the building without having a person in the frame. Damn people! :-) So, rather than be upset about that, I turned toward the sidewalk to see what kind of "street photography" I could make with my Rolleicord that could use some of the many tourists as part of the frame. That's when I saw the Magic Show setting up shop. That seemed like a good opportunity. There were two guys that seemed to be together, the top-hatted gentleman and a guy in an all silver suit. I waited about 5 minutes until they had unpacked their bags and set up their table and portable sound system. The guy with the top hat began asking passers by if they wanted to see a magic show. It only took about 30 seconds for three people to "volunteer". They walked up to the table and the guy began his routine.

A Change Of Plans

As they were setting up I had been trying to position myself to get a decent view of everything, including the stone sculpture on the bridge tower behind them. I initially thought that the two guys would be performing together but I was wrong. Apparently it was time for the silver-suited fellow to take a smoke break because as soon as the guy in the top hat began performing the guy in the suit dropped back to lean against the bridge tower and light up (he's holding a very small bit of cigarette in his left hand). That forced me to re-compose the image at the last second because I really wanted both of them in the frame if possible. Because of that I had to step back a little to get everything in the frame. Unfortunately that also brought a few "interlopers" into the scene (the bit of shopping bag and purse you see in the lower-left). I re-composed the frame about 4 times trying to get the best overall composition that I could given what was going on around me. I eventually settled in on what you see above. It's not as clean as I would've hoped but because I wanted both performers in the frame I think it's about as good as I could expect. I managed to get most of the bridge sculpture in the frame as well. My main focus is on the magician, As you can see, he was playing toward the girl on the left, waving his wand and saying something about disappearing objects. The other two people in the frame are watching intently while the silver-suited man is hanging out enjoying his last bit of cigarette. I also got two guys from the Wendella water taxi service in the frame (who are completely oblivious to the performance) which I think adds some nice balance.

Learning From The Unpredictability

This image in particular was a learning experience for me because of all the unpredictability. I had what I thought was a nicely planned scene when my plans were "ruined" by random people. Compared to photographing landscapes, city/street photography has a much bigger random factor to it, making things more of a challenge. I've initially shied away from street photography but am now learning to enjoy it more and more. The whole nature of photographing people in a inconspicuous or unposed manner means that there is a lot or randomness. That randomness forces the photographer to be able to think quickly and adapt to the new situation. I'm finding that very challenging yet enjoyable. I think my street photography will increase because of that.

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