Scott Speck

2018 in Music Photos

A year of big performances, big venues, big voices, and big ovations. Here’s a look at my favorite music photos from 2018. Applause to all!

All photos © copyright 2018 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved.

Five things I've learned in five years

In 2014, I was newly unemployed and tired of applying for jobs. With the encouragement of close friends and a career advisor, and the blessing of my parents, I compiled my best photos to date, built a website, invested in new equipment, and told the world I would like to get paid to take pictures. It was a risk and I had no idea how to make it happen. Now, I'm wrapping up my fifth year in business, and I can't imagine doing anything else. So I thought it would be a good time to share a few things I've learned along the way: 

1. Be a good colleague. Do good work. In that order. Yes, your product must be good, but business will suffer if you're difficult to work with. Basically, being a good person is never a bad move.

Chamber musicians play well together: David Finckel and Wu Han for Harris Theater. (Photo by Elliot Mandel, copyright 2018, all rights reserved.)

Chamber musicians play well together: David Finckel and Wu Han for Harris Theater. (Photo by Elliot Mandel, copyright 2018, all rights reserved.)

2. Stand by your work. Only you get to determine the value of your product/time/expertise. There are many factors that go into determining and assessing value, and many factors that go into negotiating fees and terms with a client. But ultimately, it's your name on the thing.  Do it well and defend it. 

In the spotlight: Chicago Children’s Choir. (Photo by Elliot Mandel, copyright 2017, all rights reserved.)

In the spotlight: Chicago Children’s Choir. (Photo by Elliot Mandel, copyright 2017, all rights reserved.)

3. Good. Writing. Is. So. Important. Most of my time is spent writing: quotes and contracts; social media posts; emails and emails and emails. I'm constantly choosing the right words to convey the appropriate tone. On the other hand, I can tell if a client will be a good fit by the way they communicate in writing. Why is any of this important? Because once I arrive to your shoot, nothing should get in the way of making good pictures. All the expectations, guidelines, fees, and logistics have been arranged in advance, and everything is in clear writing in case we need to reference it later.  The only thing left to do is concentrate on the photos.  

Every word matters: Rep. John Lewis addresses the American Library Assoc. (Photo by Elliot Mandel, copyright 2017, all rights reserved.)

Every word matters: Rep. John Lewis addresses the American Library Assoc. (Photo by Elliot Mandel, copyright 2017, all rights reserved.)

4. Build relationships. Yes, it's the long game, but it's the one thing that has served me well from the start. When a client is about to pay me money, they need to trust me and I need to understand exactly what they want. Now is a perfect time to say I'm tremendously grateful that my earliest clients have become longstanding colleagues, and have allowed me to grow with them: The Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago, Cedille Records, Chicago A Cappella, Chicago Children's Choir, Chicago Philharmonic, Fourth Coast Ensemble, Fulcrum Point New Music Project, Northwestern Bienen School of Music, and UChicago Presents

“Be discreet” was the only direction I received before my first assignment for the Chicago Philharmonic. Still the mantra. Maestro Scott Speck conducts the Chicago Philharmonic. (Photo by Elliot Mandel, copyright 2018, all rights reserved.)

“Be discreet” was the only direction I received before my first assignment for the Chicago Philharmonic. Still the mantra. Maestro Scott Speck conducts the Chicago Philharmonic. (Photo by Elliot Mandel, copyright 2018, all rights reserved.)

5. There is plenty of work for everyone. I think about this one nearly every day. Metaphor time: one day, during a particularly slow month, I decided to take an aimless photo walk downtown. I stopped at one of my favorite spots, the Lurie Garden in Millennium Park. It was early summer and the bees were all over the garden flowers - so many that you could hear them buzzing. The garden is relatively small; there are certainly bigger parks with more flowers. But the bees were happy and diligently doing their work. There were plenty of flowers for them. Yes, there are more self-employed professionals now than ever before.  Yes, there is always someone willing to do the same job for less. But there is always a need for quality work. 

Plenty of pollen: Lurie Garden in Millennium Park. (Photo by Elliot Mandel, copyright 2015, all rights reserved.)

Plenty of pollen: Lurie Garden in Millennium Park. (Photo by Elliot Mandel, copyright 2015, all rights reserved.)

6. Ok, one more for the new year, and it's another one I think about regularly: the only guarantee is that if you say "no," nothing will happen. When you take a risk, sometimes the payoff is six months away and you don't know it yet. Or you don't even know what the payoff will be. Or something small leads to something larger. But if you say "no," it's over.  

A photo of bassist Chuck Webb that I grabbed while on assignment to shoot audio equipment at Navy Pier; it now hangs in the window of a Gold Coast bank. (Photo by Elliot Mandel, copyright 2017, all rights reserved.)

A photo of bassist Chuck Webb that I grabbed while on assignment to shoot audio equipment at Navy Pier; it now hangs in the window of a Gold Coast bank. (Photo by Elliot Mandel, copyright 2017, all rights reserved.)

Thanks for being part of these five wonderful years. Here's to all of us doing great work in 2019! 

Scenes from the Chicago Philharmonic's Poland 2018 Festival

The Chicago Philharmonic opened its 18-19 season with a multi-night festival celebrating Polish music and the 100th anniversary of Polish independence. I began my fifth season as the Philharmonic’s photographer and had the pleasure/challenge of shooting in some unique and grand spaces around Chicago. Here’s a gallery of my favorite shots from the festival. Pictured: the Silesian Quartet at Fourth Presbyterian Church; jazz pianist Piotr Orzechowski at the Polish Museum of America; director Scott Speck, pianist Łukasz Krupiński, and the Chicago Philharmonic at the Copernicus Center; and Marek Mos conducting the Philharmonic in Wojciech Kilar’s Mass for Peace for 1700 people at St. Hyacinth Basilica.

All photos © copyright 2018 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved.

Well, that was fast.

Spring has come and gone, and I spent most of it among wonderful artists and beautiful moments. Here's a sample of everything I saw: 

The Chicago Children's Choir singing their hearts out in grand spaces. Galas for Bella Voce and Music of the Baroque. A beautiful spring evening on stage at Millennium Park. A surprise proposal and engagement tomfoolery. The Chicago Philharmonic's Scott Speck puts on the conducting gloves. Lots of portraits of lovely and talented artists. And the best rooftop view a photographer could ask for. 

All photos © copyright 2018 by Elliot Mandel. All rights reserved.

Supermoon and Symphonies: Early Highlights of 2018

If there's a way to sum up the start of 2018, it's that I photographed some pretty awesome and beautiful things. The year started off with a Supermoon in sub-zero temps. After the feeling returned to my fingers, I drove out to the Mississippi River to watch the bald eagles before concert season picked up again. I spent a dress rehearsal with the Lake Forest Symphony; covered the Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra's final concert before its China tour; and shot the Chicago Philharmonic (with two pianos!). The Northwestern University Jazz Orchestra - with Victor Goines and Don Vappie - blew out the best Mardi Gras tunes north of New Orleans. I shot my first concert for the Harris Theater on the stage of the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, and watched in amazement while pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard performed Ligeti and Beethoven before a rapt audience at the University of Chicago. Fulcrum Point New Music Project closed March with a rollicking performance of music by Wynton Marsalis. Now, on to spring! 

All photos © copyright 2018 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.

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.