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Returning Home: Chicago Street Photography

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Returning Home: Chicago Street Photography

I remain convinced that the most interesting light bathes the city of Chicago. The streets and underpasses and El tracks are where I fell in love with making photographs, and being back there this week simply confirms my feelings.

I was a journalism undergrad when I took Tom Petrillo’s black and white photography class at Northwestern. He wanted us to go into the world, explore, and learn how to see. I went to Chicago time and again, a dozen rolls of Tri-X in my coat pocket and my trusty Leica M4P around my neck. I would ride the El for hours, documenting the publicly private lives on the train. I would photograph the teeming streets, the rusty metal, the towers of glass. 

Back then, my photography was pure. I wanted to interpret the world through images, and I’d spend countless hours on the streets and in the darkroom trying to show the Chicago I saw. Like all art, even the best results fail to express the range of feelings that went into it, but Chicago was always my favorite place to photograph. 

This week I showed my family a little bit of Chicago. We had pizza at Lou Malnati’s and Italian Beef and Chicago dogs at Portillo's. We walked the streets. They saw where I spent my undergraduate years and hung out on the observation deck of the Sears (okay, Willis) Tower. And they waited for me, as some geometry or shadow would catch my eye and I’d spend a few minutes trying to put the image together in my viewfinder. 

I hadn’t shot in Chicago for years, and this time instead of my Leica and Tri-X I had a modern iteration—A Fuji XPro 2. It only took a few minutes on Clark Street, under the creaking El platforms, for me to remember why I love this city, the unusual soft and hard light that bounces off the skyscrapers and dances through the alleys. I still see the city mostly in black and white, in the gritty dark spaces, the shadows, the steel, and the persistent energy of its people. 

It’s good sometimes to remind ourselves why we photograph anything. Why we have this desire to see the world in a different way. What makes us unique is our vision of the world, and that's worth remembering as we gear up for wedding season in WIsconsin!

 

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The Complication at Club Garibaldi in Milwaukee

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The Complication at Club Garibaldi in Milwaukee

I love photographing Wisconsin weddings and families, but I also think personal projects are essential to keeping myself photographically fit. Since moving back to Wisconsin, I've been looking for a new project or two to explore, and one of them is a look at indy rock band The Complication

Annie B. is talented and driven singer-songwriter who founded the band, and an old friend. She, bassist Michael and drummer Dave "Road Dog" Bishop are out there hustling and rocking throughout Wisconsin and the Midwest. 

But it wasn't just the music or our friendship that attracted me to the project; it's the fact that she manages to create a career as a businesswoman and artist with unusual drive and energy. It's not so different from the struggles of running a photography business, and I've already learned a lot from her about how to keep your passion while paying the bills. So i stopped by a late-night show a couple of weeks ago in Bayview at Club Garibaldi to kick this project off. Here are the results: 

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An Ode to Fathers on Father's Day

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An Ode to Fathers on Father's Day

I have never been father of the bride. I've seen the movie, more times than I'd like to admit, and I have two daughters who haven't yet found the man they want to spend their lives with (thankfully, in one case, as my younger daughter is only 14!!), but it hasn't been my turn yet. 

That maybe has something to do with why one of my absolute favorite parts of a wedding is the father-daughter dance. So on this Father's Day, while I luxuriate at home with fresh breakfast and the peace and quiet of a Sunday, I wanted to celebrate the very special role that fathers play on your wedding day. 

Perhaps my all-time favorite father was a couple of years ago, when a hairpiece for the bride fell out of my wife's pocket into the backyard pool. I asked Olga to go get dad, and he came out, dove into the pool, and retrieved it so that it wouldn't get scratched up if we had fished it out with a net. Our bride was none the wiser at the time, and Dad had to take another shower and then get himself ready to go. But there have been many others. The father who gave a half-hour toast that celebrated the sacrifices families make to build a better life. The many fathers who can't contain the joy of seeing their daughters in their dresses for the first time. And I won't forget the fathers who have passed on but whose spirit is ever-present at their daughter's wedding, through an empty chair in the front row or a photograph on a locket or the smell of gasoline and grass on his tractor in the yard where his daughter is getting married. And the fathers who laugh and dance and revel in the love in the room until the last song plays. 

On this father's day, I'm reminded of the responsibility and impact we have on our daughters' lives, and am thankful for the amazing gifts my own father has given me. Happy Father's Day!

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New Home, New Look, New Motivation

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New Home, New Look, New Motivation

The road outside my parent's home

This blog is a space where we normally are focused on you, our clients. We showcase our best work, provide helpful information about weddings and photography in general, and try to give you a sense of what we do as professional wedding photographers. 

But this month we are moving our successful Florida photography studio to Madison, Wisconsin, and I thought a brief word or two about why is in order. 

The reality of the modern family is often one of relatives spread out all across the state, country, and, indeed world. We certainly feel that, with my brother's family in Cocoa Beach, my sister's family in Minnesota, my wife's family in Ukraine, and my own adult children and parents in Wisconsin. We came to South Florida several years ago from Ukraine to open this business, and have loved every second of it. Working with my wife and capturing the images we show you on a weekly basis has been the greatest joy of my professional life. 

It has always been difficult to be away from so much of my family for that time, particularly my adult son and daughter. My daughter is an up-and-coming graphic designer in Madison, and all the best design work you see from Steve Daubs Studios comes from her (while the terrible stuff is usually mine!). My son has battled through bipolar disorder and come through with a sharp wit he employs almost nightly on the stand-up comedy circuit in and around Madison. The tug of missing so much of their lives has only become stronger over time. 

But recently, another major shift happened in our lives. My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. I can't tell you how much my father's example has meant to me over the years. He is the epitome of the American success story, a poor kid who left home at 16, was the first in his family to attend college, and who went on to earn an MBA and run a multi-billion dollar investment company. Now living outside of Madison, my parents had hoped to enjoy the solitude of the rolling hills and sounds of nature in their lovely hilltop home. 

And they have, to a large degree, for the past several years. But age is a merciless tormentor, and now my father, always the picture of health and vigor, has begun to feel the effects of memory loss and frustration that come with the onset of Alzheimer's. So it is time for me to begin to repay, if only in the smallest of ways, everything he has given me throughout my life. Olga, our daughter Veronika, and I will do everything we can for however much time we have with my parents to make sure they live their retirement in the most fun, comfortable, and easy way possible. 

We are excited to spend so much more time with our Wisconsin family, and we remain passionate about building our wedding and family photography businesses in Madison. Yes, we are sad to leave the Sunshine State, but the decision comes from the best of motivations and at the most critical time. 

 

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From Documentary You to Steve Daubs Studios

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From Documentary You to Steve Daubs Studios

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First, off, Happy Thanksgiving! While it is a day to enjoy turkey and all that, it is mostly about being thankful for family and friends. Olga and I have had a truly wonderful year thanks in large part to the amazing couples who have entrusted us with their wedding photography. And we are preparing for an even more spectacular 2015, beginning with an announcement: Documentary You and Steve Daubs Photography are combining into a new, all-inclusive brand: Steve Daubs Studios.

I have been a photographer for a long time, first as a journalist, then as a documentary fine art photographer, and then I added commercial, architectural and portrait photography. When Olga and I decided to venture into weddings a few years ago, we thought it would be best to keep my old work separate from this new work, so we made a new brand that was separate from the old one (Steve Daubs Photography). 

It made sense at the time; the audience of our previous business was mostly artists and photo editors while the new business was aimed squarely at future brides and grooms. But now, it's clear to me that the trajectory of my education and experience as a photographer and storyteller has led me to weddings. They are the perfect blend of story, character, and visual joy. 

For us, the privilege and challenge of photographing weddings exceeds any of the other work we do. So while I will continue to work on my own personal documentary projects (you can see some of them in the "other portfolios" section of this website, the business is focused on satisfying the needs of my wedding and portrait clients. 

I can assure my past and current clients that the new name and website will do nothing to change our relationship, our commitments, or our responsibilities. We are extremely excited about bringing a new energy into this business, and we hope you share it with us!

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