I live in Chicago, a city known for its skyscrapers. Of the forty tallest buildings in the city, half have been constructed since the year 2000. These impressive twenty-first century structures have mirror-like skins of glass. Those of us that have played with two or more mirrors know that certain arrangements can produce an optical illusion. The same is true of shiny skyscrapers which are often built in clusters. In certain spots, if you look up you might see reality remodeled into unlikely, if not impossible, geometries. In addition to creating mirror-magic, these tall reflective towers also redirect daylight into the city’s shadows, and sometimes this redirected light itself seems magical. This is skyscraper magic: the magic of large-scale mirrors and soft reflected light.
American photographer Duane Michals once said: “Photographers tend not to photograph what they can’t see, which is the very reason one should try to attempt it.”
Attempting to capture skyscraper magic in a photograph – that magical feeling created by reflected light and optical illusion, not the skyscrapers themselves – seemed like a worthy challenge and, starting at the end of 2018, it became my winter project.
There are some special spots in the city where skyscraper magic can be really appreciated. They are places where two walls of steel and glass meet to form an alcove on the outside of a tall building. If you stand within the compass of the alcove and look straight up, in the resulting worms-eye view nearby skyscrapers sometimes appear like shards in a giant kaleidoscope. Sometimes they are like stems in a kelp forest in which the geometry of nature has been replaced with the geometry of Euclid. In my quest to capture the magic, I searched for these places. In particular, I searched for glass alcoves in which the worms-eye geometry was striking and immersive, and the filtered and reflected light brought this geometry to life.