Photoessay: Cityscape Chicago

_Q116_L1040394 copy

Following on from the previous Cityscape Singapore post – I’ve decided to repeat the curation exercise with all of the other locations I visit frequently to see if my short and long term impressions remain constant. Today’s candidate is Chicago. My expectations prior to visiting were perhaps clouded (oddly) by the 1920s to 1950s period of neo-gothic architecture and pop culture elements; I wasn’t disappointed on arrival, but found the contrast between that and the very modern designs quite compelling. Somehow the city’s architects have managed to integrate both in a harmonious way; perhaps it’s because a lot of consideration is given to the surroundings of any single building before the plan is greenlit. It may well be the same case in other cities, but I can say there’s absolutely zero of this sensitivity in Kuala Lumpur – often plots are developed into their own mini-cities that do not play nicely with the neighbourhood at all, but rather force their way in. It is this preservation of continuity that I found rather intriguing as a visitor…MT

Shot over a long, long period of time with a wide variety of equipment. Mostly processed with PS Workflow III.

_Q116_L1040926 copy

_64Z3105 copy

_8B04122 copy

_7R2_DSC2651 copy

_8B04258 copy

_64Z2943 copy

_8B30875 copy

_7R2_DSC2391 copy

_7R2_DSC1771 copy

_7R2_DSC2204 copy

_7R2_DSC2396 copy

_7R2_DSC1842 copy

_8B31048 copy


Ultraprints from this series are available on request here


Visit the Teaching Store to up your photographic game – including workshop videos, and the individual Email School of Photography. You can also support the site by purchasing from B&H and Amazon – thanks!

We are also on Facebook and there is a curated reader Flickr pool.

Images and content copyright Ming Thein | 2012 onwards unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved


  1. Glen Barrington says:

    I don’t live in Chicago but in Downstate Illinois, Springfield. I LOVE visiting Chicago, the scenery, the food, the clubs. the music. But I have no desire to live there. I think you see the city in much the same way I do. It’s a great place to visit!

    • Agreed on the visiting part. Honestly couldn’t say well enough if I’d like to live there or not; it seems liveable but i’m Also aware as a tourist you reall don’t see much of the suburban part where the actual living happens, unlike other very large cities like say Tokyo where a large portion of the population actually lives in town.

  2. Jack Siegel says:

    I have to take issue with your assessment of the zen of old and new architecture in Chicago. A major complaint for the last twenty or so years is that a lot of mediocre buildings have gone up. The acknowledged reason for this is campaign contributions from developers. Recently, Blair Kamin, the architectural critic for the Chicago Tribune did a major series of articles about the development from Michigan Avenue to Navy Pier. Kamin was highly critical of the results over the last 25 years, noting how this largely high-rise residential area does not feel like a neighborhood because developers have not honored their commitments. Our present mayor favorable noted articles..

    Head up to Wrigleyville. Developers and the family who owns the Cubs have destroyed the feel of the neighborhood and stadium with non-description new buildings that overpower the stadium. People are particularly irritated with that.

    My big complaint is the failure to regulate visual clutter. Take the Tribune Tower. In front of main entrance sits a gigantic trash compactor that has an add for a pizza joint covering it. That defiles any photo of the building. Take the hideous Divy bike stands. Many of them are placed in front of classic entrances. Or look at the clock on the Jewelers Building. Why is there a light pole blocking/crowding the face. Look at the Carbon and Carbide Building entrance. A light pole obstructs the classic Art Deco entrance. Next time you are in town, take a look at the new building going up immediately north of Trump Tower. Look at in relation to the Wrigley Building arches and negative space. There is no negative space anymore.

    Chicago has great architecture, but the trend is not good and is already having a negative impact.

    Jack Siegel

    • Hi Jack, I think these are all fair points, and raise one more important overall concept: relativity. As a resident, you see and feel much more of the context, history and potential of the city than those of us who are just transient visitors and have relative no frame of reference. Compared to what I’ve seen/experienced elsewhere, Chicago is pretty amazing even in its present (non-ideal) state. You may well say the same if you visited Kuala Lumpur, but then I’d be the one assuring you it is a mess and could have been done better…such reality checks are good to have, I think – so thank you! 🙂

  3. Great work!

  4. Kristian Wannebo says:

    #s 5, 8, 10 !

    Not to forget that summit cloud in #3!
    ( Makes me think of stationary clouds on mountain peaks in certain weather.)
    – – –

    An overwhelming city – for me.

    ( I visited Sydney some 30 years ago.
    Also, I think, a city where new was well mixed into the old.)

  5. Glad you photographed the most beautiful city in the world. When better? You even used the Q Thanks They are superb. Neal

  6. Very nice. You caught our lake on a restless evening. Sometimes she gets so angry, you’d be swept away at that location.

  7. I remember the circumstances of many of those photos well, especially that night time one.

  8. I truly enjoy your particular eye and you compositions. The photos have an immediate appeal and then I can look, and look, and admire the little details, and sometimes find small surprises, over, and over, and over.

    The second to last shot, my favorite, is seemingly so “every day ordinary” and I know I’d walk by and likely not notice myself, I’m sure, but it’s such a pleasure to look at. And you don’t use any of the visual gimmicks so often in use nowadays.

    • Thanks Pavel! Not a fan of visual gimmicks, just the cleanest distillation and presentation possible of an idea…that said, I find it’s far more work to take stuff out than put it in!

  9. I noticed image no 7 seems crooked to the left. Was this intentional? Fantastic set though!

  10. Is it just me or is image 7 just a bit crooked to the left? Just curious if intentional or not. Really amazing set, as always.

  11. Réflections et réflexions bien amenées.

%d bloggers like this: