A Great Distance: CD Launch Recital

One of my favorite recitals of 2015 came on November 6 when soprano Juliet Petrus and pianist Lydia Qiu gave the Chicago launch of their debut CD of beautiful and rarely performed Chinese art song.  I was thrilled to have shot the cover (my first album cover!) and additional artwork; check out the original photo. Our collaboration inspired me to do some of my best work of the year.  Juliet and Lydia gave an intimate and eloquent performance that night at PianoForte Chicago. As a bonus, the event featured two galleries of my work: some black-and-white studies of the staircase at the Art Institute where we did the cover shoot, and an exhibit of 15 scenes of Chicago cityscapes and new work from Chinatown. 

You can watch the entire recital here.  And you can buy A Great Distance on Amazon, CDbaby, or itunes.  

Photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved. 

Contempo Season Opener, October 27, 2015

The 51st season of the University of Chicago's Contempo series opened on October 27, 2015 with a program celebrating its recently retired artistic director, Shulamit Ran. The towering music was given probing and gutsy performances by U of C ensembles-in-residence Pacifica Quartet and eighth blackbird with mezzo-soprano Julia Bentley.  New artistic director Marta Ptaszyn'ska joined Ran on stage as longtime colleagues and friends.  

Photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved. 

Chicago Jazz: A Photographer's View - Sept 23-Oct 25, 2015

One of the major highlights of 2015 - three of my photos were selected for inclusion in "Chicago Jazz: A Photographer's View" at the University of Chicago's Logan Center for the Arts.  My pictures were featured alongside some terrific images from around the city, and I had a chance to meet some photographers I've long admired - Stan Lee, Jasmine Kwon, Mark Sheldon, Farrad Ali, and Jack Siegel.  Many thanks to Bill Michel and the Logan Center for a great show and fun evening.  Below, my images from the Green Mill and performance shots of saxophonist Bernard Scavella and drummer Greg Artry.  

Photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved. 

Scenes from the 2015 Collaborative Works Festival

My third season shooting for the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago (CAIC) kicked off last week with the 2015 Collaborative Works Festival and four days of fantastic singing. It's an incredible privilege to have such close access to these singers; here are some of my favorite images.  

Photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved.   

American Howl with Fulcrum Point

Scenes from a hard-hitting concert with Fulcrum Point at the Poetry Foundation.  Kevin Coval's between-the-eyes eloquence in his own work matched the tone Allen Ginsburg's "Howl," set to music by George Flynn. The otherwise intimate setting could barely contain the force of Jerome Kitzke's "Mad Coyote Madly Sings."  Pictured are Stephen Burns (trumpet/conductor), Kevin Coval (poet/narrator), Wagner Campos (clarinet), Jeremy Ruthrauff (sax), Kuang-Hao Huang (piano), Doug Perkins (percussion), Rika Seko (violin), Sophie Webber (cello), Collins Trier (bass), Juliet Petrus, Joelle Lamarre, and Brad Jungwirth (vocals).  

Photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved. 

My photo debut at Pritzker Pavilion

The Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park is a surprisingly large space when you're trying to cover every angle for a very large choir.  But it's a pretty big thrill to get the all-access wristband that allows you to shoot from the stage. Here are scenes from a nonstop 2-hour concert with the incredible Chicago Children's Choir, directed by Josephine Lee, with soprano Jonita Lattimore, saxophonist Oran Etkin, and drummer Makaya McCraven.  

Photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved. 


Easily one of the most memorable, high-energy performances I've shot this year.  Back in April, Fulcrum Point presented JacobTV's THE NEWS at Thalia Hall.  The nonstop "pop opera" is an 80-minute satire of mass media that is a poignant, comical, wacky, trippy, and altogether brilliant mash-up of rhythm, language, melodic fragments, and unreal vocals from Loire and Nora Fisher. Fulcrum Point's 9-piece band included Stephen Burns, Jim Gailloreto, Matt Wifler, Jeremy Ruthrauff, Andy Baker, Karl Montzka, Steve Roberts, Ian Ding, and Larry Kohut. 

Photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved.


Photographing Autism

How do you photograph something that remains a mystery? How do you tell a story without showing the main characters? These were my challenges as I walked into Rimland Services, an organization that provides care for people with autism. I was legally prohibited from showing faces of the residents. This forced me to intentionally block faces, shoot from behind, and physically move against my instincts. What I saw were the faces of the staff, volunteers, and caregivers - faces that revealed genuine love and compassion in an environment where those things that typically divide us - gender, race, age, physical or mental ability - didn't exist. The act of photography for me is an ongoing exercise in living in the present moment and simultaneously outside my comfort zone. At Rimland, this awareness intensified, such that the first two hours felt like four. But the staff welcomed me instantly, and I adjusted by observing their patient demeanor with the residents, their strength tempered by warmth and kindness. They allowed me the gift of seeing the world through their eyes, and I hope I captured and represented it adequately.    

All photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved.

Season finale with the Chicago Philharmonic

Part 2 of a two-day concert shoot, in which I shot the Chicago Philharmonic's season finale at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall.  Maestro Scott Speck conducted vibrant performances of Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun and La Mer, and pianist Jorge Federico Osorio played with commanding power and intensity in De Falla's Nights in the Gardens of Spain and Ravel's Piano Concert for the Left Hand.  What a thrill to shoot this concert up close.  

All photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved.

Cedille's 25th Anniversary Showcase

Part 1 of a two-concert day for me, in which I photograph four fantastic ensembles in two hours during the Cedille Records showcase performance at the Chicago Cultural Center.  Pictured: Patrice Michaels with bassist Larry Gray, violinist Jeff Yang, pianist Elizabeth Doyle; Fifth House Ensemble with Baladino; the Avalon Quartet performing music by Stacy Garrop; and Gaudete Brass Quintet. 

All photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved.

Looking back at CAIC's 2014-15 season

The Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago closed out its 2014-15 season this month, and with it, my second season shooting for them.  Through terrific recital programming, a series of master classes, and expert coachings, CAIC has added a vibrant art-song presence to Chicago's music scene, and I've been happy to see its audience grow at each event. Congratulations to my friends at CAIC on another wonderful season - I was happy to see it all, once again, through the camera.

All photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved. 

CAIC's Spring Lieder Lounge

Baritone John Brancy and pianist Peter Dugan gave one of the most beautiful and memorable recitals I've had the privilege to shoot. With poignancy and grace, Brancy and Dugan performed a program of World War I British composers against an evening backdrop from the 9th-floor penthouse at the University of Chicago's Logan Center, a venue perfectly suited for the intimacy of the music.  

All photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved.

Nothing better than an all-Bach concert

Photographing a concert of Bach music makes me a happy boy, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to shoot the opening concert of the Bach Week Festival at Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston last week.  A beautifully varied program began with Desiree Ruhstrat and Mathias Tacke playing the Double Violin Concerto, followed by the Cantata No. 82 with bass Douglas Anderson.  Brandenburg Concertos 2 and 5 closed the concert before a post-concert candlelight performance of early music with Mirja Lorenz (recorder) and Joel Spears (theorbo). 

All photos © Copyright 2015 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved.

Behind the cover: how my picture ended up in Sports Illustrated

I had the recent good fortune of assisting photographer Todd Rosenberg on a portrait shoot for Sports Illustrated. The concept: photograph player-of-the-year Frank "The Tank" Kaminsky in front of a real tank. I was full prepared to carry heavy equipment, stand outside in the snow, and not eat for several hours. All those things happened, including spending 40 minutes scraping ice and snow off a tank. And all of a sudden, Todd handed me a second camera and told me to shoot behind-the-scenes. I had no idea the magazine would publish the photo, let alone turn it into a full page on the table of contents.  But here it is - proof that we shot on location, with a real tank, and that Kaminsky is really 7 feet tall. Many thanks to Todd (who made a great cover), Chris Stone at SI, Frank Kaminsky, and American Legion Post 360 in Waunakee, Wisconsin. 

Contempo: Big names, world premieres

Contempo always packs a heavy-hitting and heady mix of music.  This past Sunday seemed extra significant as Contempo gave the world premieres of works by Gunther Schuller and Sofia Gubaidulina - two giants in the world of contemporary composition who were also in attendance.  Add composer and Contempo artistic director Shulamit Ran, conductor Cliff Colnot, and U of C ensembles-in-residence Pacifica Quartet and eighth blackbird, and you've got some of the best in new music.  

Unlike traditional classical music forms, contemporary music is impossible to predict, making it uniquely challenging to photograph.  The usual strategy of waiting for the loud parts doesn't necessarily work since the loud parts may never come, or they come and go in an instant.  Here are some moments that I caught when the shutter sound was (hopefully) masked.  

The Avalon Quartet at the Art Institute

"I'm with the band" is becoming my favorite cliche.  It was particularly true when I photographed the Avalon Quartet at the Art Institute, getting 360-degree access onstage during rehearsal - something that is impossible during a concert.  Fullerton Hall is a perfect venue for chamber music, and the Tiffany glass overhead makes it a visual stunner.  Program: Berg's String Quartet, Op. 3; Brahms' String Quartet, Op. 51, No. 1 in c minor.  Blaise Magniere, Marie Wang, violins; Anthony Devroye, viola; Cheng-Hou Lee, cello.

Mozart and champagne with the Chicago Philharmonic

Some scenes from the Chicago Philharmonic's Valentine's Day weekend concert at Nichols Concert Hall, including a performance by Visceral Dance Chicago and Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante with violinist David Perry and violist Carol Cook.  Conductor Scott Speck led the Philharmonic through an energetic program ending with Strauss's Champagne Polka; a champagne toast finished off a beautiful afternoon.