Focal points Photography

Guest Post: Reflections – Part 2

Hello dear readers. This week I am out of town on a road trip with the gentlemen of Long Pork for Sketchfest NYC. I will return with a new post on Wednesday 6/16. In my absence my good friend James Vest has submitted two amazing entries for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!

Recently, I became a finalist for what I consider to be my dream job. I have been working two jobs almost continuously since moving to Chicago in 2005. One job pays the bills, and the other is what I love to do. This opportunity would be for the company I currently work for, but by moving to California, I would be doing exactly what I was born to do. There are really few drawbacks. Sure, it’d be hard work, but hard work to me is as satisfying and rewarding as a farmer standing in their field.

If there is one thing I would miss, that would be living in Chicago. I have spent the majority of my time residing in Lakeview. I haven’t had a car in so long, I would expect insurance companies to run a special background check to confirm I’m not under some kind of DUI lifetime driving ban. Admittedly, I am afraid of the unknown. What if there’s no good places to eat? What if there are no places to walk to? What if the buses don’t run?

I bought a camera a few months back. It’s the first really good camera I’ve ever owned. I took it on vacation and took a bunch of pictures of blue sky, purple flowers and white sand. When I came back to Chicago, I continued to take similar pictures, except these natural shots were of red brick, gritty cement and marooned bicycles. The city is beautiful. If you don’t believe me, take a look at some pictures.

I have always fantasized about taking pictures of strangers, but I am a coward. I am fascinated by the expressions on people’s faces and the subtleties of character that reveal what’s inside one’s heart. I try to memorize everyone I see on the street. I can close my eyes and see young women grinning from behind large sunglasses. People wearing matching baseball caps, walking their optimistic and grateful animals. I see thirsty homeless men sitting with empty cups, casting long stares.

What I photograph are pictures of objects that look back at me, that speak with the same, subtle character. All I have to do is think of the streets for the people reappear in my mind. Maybe it’s because my father is an architect. Whatever the reason, for people like me, a picture of a building is all that is needed to remember what’s inside.

Chicago will be here forever. No matter where life beckons me to go, I don’t think that I will ever live in a place with so much character that it can be seen stacked in the bricks and paved into every street. Wherever I live, these pictures will place me back on the sidewalk in the heat of the afternoon, or next to the rainwater pools of the morning.

I take very few pictures of myself. All I need is to remember my surroundings for all the memories of these years spent in Chicago to captivate my mind, and retrace, step by step, the path back home. Whatever happens with my work, I will always remember my time in Lakeview fondly.

James Vest is a writer and video editor living in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. To see more from his life, visit his website,