Chicago is gorgeous no matter the time of the day, month or year. Documenting its beauty has proven irresistible to countless artists, amateur or professional, and just about anyone that visits Chicago.
Choose Chicago celebrates the outstanding creative work of an individual through its annual Artist of the Year Program, developed as a unique way to show appreciation for city-wide convention business. Over the past 14 years, artwork has been presented to clients on behalf of the entire local hospitality community. The artist is commissioned to create original or enhanced copies of artwork celebrating Chicago.
This year, we are thrilled to announce we have chosen photographer Nick Ulivieri as our 2015 Choose Chicago Artist of the Year.
We caught up with Ulivieri to talk about the award, his photography career and that certain Chicago je ne sais quoi that makes it so darn appealing to look at.
Choose Chicago: What does the Artist of the Year award mean to you?
Nick Ulivieri: It means so much, it's hard to put into words. It's a huge honor and the highlight of my career. I imagine this feels a lot like when someone gets to work with an idol they've grown up admiring - except instead of someone famous, I get to work with one of the coolest cities in the world.
How did you get your start in photography?
I've been an artist of sorts since I first discovered crayons. I've always been a creative but photography came a bit later while I documenting our family vacation to Italy. During that trip I realized photography was the creative medium the best fit me. From that point on photography has consumed my life in the best possible way and I've managed to turn it into a full-time business.
How did you turn a hobby into a full-time business?
My first paid job was documenting a construction project downtown. For a few months I stopped by 1-2 times a week to take photos of the progress. I absolutely fell in love with the idea. I got to work outside doing something I loved. Soon after that project was complete, and I had a few others scheduled, I took the plunge ... I left my job at a small ad agency, and focused on Nick Ulivieri Photography full-time. It was a huge gamble for me, but it was also the best decision I ever made.
What type of photography work do you do?
Ninety-nine percent of the work I do is commercial in nature. I'm commissioned to create imagery for businesses that need custom photos for their marketing plans and advertising campaigns. Most of that work focuses on two main themes - food and architecture.
Architectural work makes up a majority of my professional and personal portfolio. I absolutely love it. I usually work with real estate brokers, property developers, and interiors designers to create a multitude of exterior and interior photos of their buildings and spaces. But for fun, there are few things I enjoy more than photographing a thunderstorm interacting with the skyline.
I grew up in the restaurant business so food has always been near and dear to my heart. It was one of the first things I started shooting seriously when it was still a hobby for me. I still have a blast working with chefs and restaurants to photograph the food they create.
What about Chicago makes it so appealing to photograph?
Variety. Chicago truly is a special place for photographers. The architecture is a man-made playground for us. While Lake Michigan, the lakefront, and our park systems are the city's perfect natural complement. Most importantly, to me anyway, is Chicago's weather. We have it all. From hot summers to cold winters, the changes in weather patterns produces a diverse range of light and sky conditions that makes for some incredible cityscapes 365 days a year.
What are some elements of your work that separate you from other photographers? What techniques are your mainstays?
It's tough to say. There are so many talented people shooting the same subjects I'm shooting and they all manage to put their own spin on this city. I've always been proud of the preparation I put into creating my photos.
Particularly for my cityscape work, weather forecasts, seasonal sun angles, and building orientations are some of the technical points I consider when planning a shoot. I guess you could say that obsessing over details is a technique at the heart of what I do.
What have been some other highlights of your career?
Besides being awarded the Choose Chicago Artist of the Year, the fact that I get to wake up everyday and do what I love is a highlight on its own. I've been fortunate to work with great people that have allowed me to execute some amazing photography projects on their behalf. I've shot at a winery in Sonoma, worked with talented chefs here in Chicago, and had the pleasure of executing shoots while hanging out of a helicopter from 1,500 feet above the city.
What are some things you hope to achieve through your photography?
For me personally, I really enjoy the process of gaining knowledge. What's great about photography is that it makes me curious. I always want to learn more about the subjects I'm photographing. With that knowledge in hand, I feel like I've put myself in a better position to capture a unique photogenic moment. So I really hope my photography allows me to keep learning (and seeing) new things.
If you'd like to browse and purchase Nick Ulivieri's work, please visit his website: nickulivieriphotography.com. You can also find his photography on Flickr, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Photos courtesy of Nick Ulivieri, all rights reserved.