Chicago Cultural Center
The Chicago Cultural Center has two spectacular stained glass domes, two beautiful mosaic and marble staircases, glass-block flooring that emits light UP, and the huge Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Room. Here’s a description of the building from the website:
Designed by the Boston firm of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge as the first home of the Chicago Public Library, the Chicago Cultural Center was completed in 1897. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 31, 1972, and was designated a Chicago Landmark by the City Council on November 15, 1976.
The Beaux Arts style was influenced by the buildings of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. The building’s interior features rooms modeled on the Doge’s Palace in Venice, the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, and the Acropolis in Athens. Its lush ornamentation includes two stained-glass domes, rare marbles inlaid with sparkling mosaics, and intricate, coffered ceilings.
What inspires me are the curves, the arches, the twinkling glass and gold leaf pieces in the mosaic inlays. And the lights in the floor are an unusual and dramatic sight. The glass block in the floor was originally there to allow light from the second floor domed rotunda to illuminate the first floor. Now the light direction is reversed!
What specific photo skills could you develop at the Cultural Center?
First, the skill of composition. Get high, get low, get left, get right, get tilted, get in the corner, get in the middle. Moving your viewpoint around until you see something dramatic or symmetric or diagonal or colorful. Playing with the bottom lighting. Getting Escher-like with the staircases.
Secondly, setting exposure to handle available light. This is primarily an indoor photo venue, and the existing lighting is set up for people, not necessarily for photography. It is far from uniform. On-camera flash is too harsh, so the key is using the available light with a vision to what you are creating in the frame. This means longer shutter speeds on a tripod, and that brings in the light hidden in the shadows.
I think you’ll be amazed at the beauty of the place, and delighted with the compositions to be created there.