The Challenges and Rewards of Photographing Public Art


Since the 1990s, Broutman has traveled the world over to capture the perfect photograph and has found his hometown of Chicago to have a plethora of visual inspiration, leading to the publication of Chicago Eternal, Chicago Monumental, and Chicago Unleashed. Broutman has been interviewed by high-profile television programs, radio shows, newspapers, and national art magazines to discuss his photography books. Chicago Monumental has won a Midwest Book Award for best interior design, an IPPY (Independent Publisher) Award in the Great Lakes Nonfiction category, and the gold medal in AuthorsDB’s Book Cover Contest.

His photography projects include work with Lincoln Park Zoo, Africa Geographic, BBC Wildlife, Children’s Memorial Hospital Clinic, and The Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Broutman is a finalist in Africa Geographic Magazine's 2017 Photographer of the Year contest.

Broutman attended MIT, where he received his S.B., S.M., and doctorate degree in the field of Materials Engineering and Science in 1963. During his career in Polymer Engineering and Science, he was an active researcher, professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and author of over 150 articles for textbooks and reference books. Broutman was recently elected to the Plastics Hall of Fame.

While it may seem like photographing a monument or any outdoor architectural element is straight forward, the creation of a photograph which is as beautiful as the subject itself, is not straight forward. This results from the fact that the outdoor photographer has to consider light availability and direction, the sky, and has to also deal with the isolation of the element from its environment. This is particularly true if the object to be photographed is in the vicinity of a tree with annoying overhanging branches. 

In today's world, photographs that are going to have to be enlarged and printed, as opposed to simply viewed in the camera or on a smart phone or on the web, require good quality digital cameras and lenses. In my particular case, I use high end Nikon digital cameras and lenses. The particular choice of the camera manufacturer is not critical as long as the camera sensor has sufficient resolution. It is also helpful to have zoom lenses, usually wide angle, e.g. 28 to 70 mm. This obviously adds considerably to one's flexibility, as it is not always clear how close you can be to the monument to be photographed. The alternative is to do much scouting and planning so that you can make these choices before going to the location.

My own routine first starts with doing research on the monument and its location. The advent of Google and Google Street has become a very advantageous tool. If the monument is near a street and captured by Google Street, you can, for example, determine which direction it is facing. If the monument faces to the west, I know I want the sun behind me, so this means I am going to have to photograph the monument in the morning. Outdoor photographers are aware that the best light, often called "golden light," is within a few hours of sunrise and sunset. Google Street may also help in judging the environment with regard to artifacts such as trees, buildings, light poles, etc. For monuments in cemeteries or large parks, similar scouting is an advantage, but without the help of Google.

The issue of composition becomes critical. Do you want to photograph the monument in the winter, when trees have no leaves? In fall, when you may get fall colors on neighboring trees? Do you want a blue sky or a cloudy sky?  The final result will reflect the skill of the photographer.

See more of Larry Broutman’s photographs in his award-winning books, Chicago Eternal, Chicago Monumental, and Chicago Unleashed.

In Chicago Eternal, the Windy City’s rich history comes alive in Broutman’s illuminating photographs of gravestones and monuments. This elegant full-color coffee table book explores over thirty Chicago area cemeteries. Each image is accompanied by text that details the deceased’s life and cultural contributions.

Purchase your copy at Everything Goes Media, Amazon, and at bookstores and gift shops in the greater Chicagoland area.

Chicago Monumental is a gorgeous full-color photographic tribute to over 250 public memorials, statues, and fountains located in the city’s parks, streets, storefronts, bridges, and cemeteries. Many were created by acclaimed sculptors from the past two centuries. There’s even a 3D photography section with 3D glasses included in the book.

Purchase your copy at Everything Goes Media, Amazon, and at bookstores and gift shops in the greater Chicagoland area.

Chicago Unleashed is collection of whimsical images digitally combining wildlife photographed throughout the world with iconic Chicago urbanscapes. Text accompanying each image provides information on the city's most important art, architecture, tourist sights, and parks, often with a tongue-in-cheek twist.

Purchase your copy at Everything Goes Media, Amazon, and at bookstores and gift shops in the greater Chicagoland area.



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