Zeca Bettax, 03 August 2011


Don’t you just love black and white photos? I sure do!

ZecaBettax CHI PanF+ 404Wellington01B

ZecaBettax CHI PanF+ 860-880NorthLakeshore01B

ZecaBettax CHI PanF+ 860-880NorthLakeshore02B

ZecaBettax CHI PanF+ ArtInstLion01B

Photo Information:

Camera: Zeca Bettax
Lens: Schneider-Kreuznach 105mm f/4.5 Radionar
Film: Ilford PanF+ (120) [1]

Photo 1:
Location: Chicago, Illinois; Lakeview Neighborhood

This is part of a small apartment complex at 404 West Wellington; the apartments were completed in 1939 and designed by Loebl & Schlossman. [2] Mostly, I like the stone walls, and the fact that the buildings are a pretty decent example of Modernist design, albeit without the stark white surfaces that were typcial of the International Style.

Photo 2 & 3:
Location: Chicago, Illinois; Streeterville Neighborhood

These two towers [3] are the first actual examples of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s high-rise design ideals, [4] and are among the most well-known of his designs both within Chicago and elsewhere. These towers, of course, are 860 & 880 North Lake Shore Drive, and were completed between 1949 and 1951. Mies’ designs set examples for many subsequent designs within Chicago, many of which are sadly far too derivative and lacking in vision beyond the template established with Mies’ work. Taken by themselves, though, these two towers are quite nice, though I hear that the interiors are a veritable nightmare of non-standard construction. [5]

Photo 4:
Location: Chicago, Illinois; Chicago Loop

This is one of the two (in)famous, [6] massive lions standing guard outside the Art Institute of Chicago (the latter is typically referred to as the Art Institute, or sometimes as the AIC). Tourists love these guys, though it’s a good thing the lions aren’t Chinese. [7]



[1]: Yes, I know…a different film! I happen to love using Ilford’s inimitable PanF+, though it can be a rather difficult film to use. My primary motivation for using it is that the rated PanF+ is ISO 50 – and as with most Ilford films, it can be both pushed and pulled; I haven’t tried it yet, but a standard pull (as in Ilford advertises that it’s easily accomplished) can bring it to ISO 25. For someone who loves slow film and its sweet, sweet smoothness (i.e. lack of obvious film grain), this is an awesome thing. Unfortunately, if you want to achieve an even more minimal film grain appearance, it is highly recommended to process the film in a fine-grain developer such as Perceptol…which means that the film needs to soak for up to 15 minutes, so it’s very time-intensive.

[2]: Random association: one of my friends once worked for Loebl, Schlossman, & Hackl…clearly, Hackl showed up somewhere between the 1940s and the 1990s.

[3]: No, no those Two Towers. Or those ones.

[4]: One of the iconic images of the early Modernist period in architectural history is Mies’ sketch for a “crystal skyscraper” on the Friedrichstrasse in Berlin – in 1921 (yes, it was quite unprecedented in 1921). That said, due to a combination of factors (not the least of which were the rise of the intellectually-vapid Nazis and, y’know, World War II), Mies didn’t produce a built skyscraper design until after he emigrated to the United States in the 1930s. The style he established with these towers would later be applied to most of his other designs, such as the Chicago Federal Center (1965-1974) and the IBM Plaza (1973).

[5]: Another of my friends briefly managed an extensive renovation in one of the apartments here; the construction details were quite different from what we employ these days.

[6]: I say “infamous” because, well…tourists really, really love these lions…and they’re pretty obnoxious about taking absolutely every sort of banal and clichéd photo ever conceived with them. It’s kinda sad, actually…I’m glad these guys are statues and not real, feeling creatures. Makes one shudder to think of the horrible, horrible things those royal guards in the UK experience at the hands of obnoxious tourists.

[7]: My Mom once mentioned this when she saw a pair of large lion sculptures (though I don’t now recall if it was these lions or ones elsewhere). The reason for this is that Chinese lions, while almost always paired, are subtly different, and these differences have important symbolic connotations. One lion has its front paw set on a stylized world globe, while the other’s paw rests on a small lion cub; symbolically, the former represents the male dominance of worldly affairs (Chinese culture is heavily patriarchal), while the latter represents the female responsibility for the family. The reason Chinese lions are always shown as male and female is that the two represent a mated pair, and that either one would fight to the death to protect the other (as real mated pairs often would do in real life). Western tradition typically pairs two male lions (as you can see by their characteristic manes), but in Chinese tradition, this would never happen, because two male lions would fight each other, and thus, would be horrible guardians! Kinda makes sense when you think about it. Oh, and just so y’all don’t accuse me of being sexist or nothin’, female lions wouldn’t be paired either, since they would fight each other too; according to Chinese tradition, same-sex lion pairs don’t get along very well.


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