The thing about street photography is you can’t plan it. There are no poses, stylists or do-overs. You have to be ready. The best moments are just that—moments. Street photographers need to be prepared to capture it before the light changes, the subject moves or the person realizes you’re taking their photo. The best street photography happens when you immerse yourself in the environment, and no one knows this better than Andrew Glatt. With a full time career as a civil engineer, this up-and-coming Chicago photographer discovered his interest in street photography while commuting to and from work. Between the unique architecture, dramatic seasons and downtown lighting, Chicago possesses a wealth of street photography opportunity.
We had a chance to catch up with Andrew to learn about his migration to Chicago from Kansas City, how his job as an engineer fits with photography, as well as get some insight into a few Windy City spots to check out on our next visit east.
Can you introduce yourself and give us a little background on where you’re from and what you’re all about?
My name is Andrew Glatt and I’m a civil engineer/photographer based out of Chicago. I’m originally from Kansas City, but Chicago has been home for the last four years. I’m all about trying new things, doing whatever it is that makes you happy, and meeting as many dogs as you can along the way. Extra emphasis on dogs.
How’d you first get your start in photography and what drew you to street photography?
I first got started in photography basically as a change in lifestyle. I was spending too much time and money on things that weren’t fulfilling in any way. I asked my brother if I could borrow his entry level Nikon DSLR (I had never used one before), to see if photography was something I could get into. I really enjoyed exploring new places and simply observing the city, and photography was a great way to channel that.
What do you do as a day job and how does that fit in or complement your photography?
I’m a civil engineer by day—roads, bridges, etc…—and I often think how it impacts the way I shoot. I enjoy working with angles and lines, approaching photography with more of a design type of mentality. It also makes you pay attention to the details, looking for things that some people wouldn’t.
What is it about Chicago that makes for interesting street photography?
Chicago has everything you could ask for as a street/urban photographer, but I think the most important thing is the character. From downtown to individual neighborhoods, everywhere you go is so unique and waiting to be captured. All you need to do is find your scene and be patient. Also, there are so many neighborhoods to explore. I haven’t explored nearly as many as I should, but I hope to do so eventually.
“Photography also makes you pay attention to the details, looking for things that some people wouldn’t.”
Do you find you take most of your images traveling to and from work, or do you go on specific photo trips?
For about 8 months of the year, 90% of the images I shoot are taken either on my way to work or on my way home. This time of year, however, it’s dark when I get off work, so I mostly shoot on weekends. Usually a couple friends and I just roam around looking for quality light and interesting scenes. Every now and then, though, a specific shot and a specific location comes to mind and I need to go test it out. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Either way it gets me out shooting which is always a good thing.
What sorts of subjects or scenes stand out to you when you’re cruising through the city?
I think the light is the most important part of a street scene, so that’s the first thing that stands out. When shooting in the rain, you develop a radar for those transparent dome-shaped umbrellas. My favorite types of photos are anything dealing with reflections. I don’t know why, there’s just something about them that fascinates me. You can stare at one photo for 10 minutes, study it and try to figure out what exactly is going on. I don’t post too often because the reflection shots I take are rarely of the quality I want them to be. If you really work at them, you’ll develop an eye for them—at least that’s what I tell myself.
Chicago and the Midwest go through some pretty drastic weather swings throughout the seasons, does this extreme variation help keep things fresh, from a photography standpoint?
Absolutely. It’s one of the reasons I love living in Chicago. Sure, it can get really freaking cold this time of year, but I try to have a positive approach to that. If you make yourself shoot in conditions that no one else will, odds are you’ll discover shots or concepts that they won’t, as well. Shooting in the snow is an incredible experience and I try to get out there every time it happens.
You have so many warm, orange tones in your photos. What attracts you to those colors?
I think just that, the warmth. Downtown Chicago is lined with soft, orange street lights which reflect off the pavement and create scenes that make you feel like you’re on a movie set.
You also run @pupsofsouthport, which is amazing, where did the motivation come from to start this page and do you have a dog of your own?
So awesome you guys know about that! The motivation came from simply living in a neighborhood with so many beautiful pups. I thought of the idea a couple days after moving to Southport Corridor. My interest in learning to shoot and edit portraits was quickly growing, so one day I just decided to do it. As a photographer, you are your biggest critic and I was not a fan of the edits at the start. I’m slowly improving and the response from the dog owners/followers has been great, which is very encouraging. Regardless of where it goes, I think it’s good practice with photography and social skills in general. Plus, pups are the best subjects anyone could ask for.
What are a few of your favorite places someone visiting Chicago should check out?
Oh, man. This could get lengthy, but I’ll break it into 3 categories:
1) Photography spots: State & Lake train station is my favorite spot in the city. There are so many possible scenes to capture there. The Riverwalk during golden hour is unbelievably beautiful and never gets old. Lasalle St. has the most action in terms of subjects. Wicker Park is reflection heaven—walk up and down Milwaukee and it’s incredible how many unique reflections you’ll come across. You might be overwhelmed and have to step in Wayward for a quick break.
3) Drinks: For coffee, definitely Osmium Coffee Bar (or any Dark Matter location), Heritage Bicycles, or Dollop. I am at one or two of these every weekend editing photos—you can’t go wrong with any of them. For adult beverages: Beermiscuous (essentially a coffee shop for beer), Hopewell Brewery, Begyle and Dovetail breweries are all located across the street from each other, and Three Dots and Dash tiki bar for cocktails.