Blog

Cleaning Up the Chicago River

Cleaning up the Chicago River is hard work, but this volunteer is happy to help - Event Photography by Michael Courier
Cleaning up the Chicago River is hard work, something that Friends of the Chicago River have been doing for over 40 years. When the weather is better, Friends hosts regular cleanup events — bringing together like-minded volunteers to help with the effort.

I’ve been documenting Great Lakes Plastic Pollution for a while now, providing information and resources about the environmental impact of plastic on our local ecosystem.

In May of 2019, I reached out to Friends of the Chicago River, who were hosting a cleanup event along the North Branch of the Chicago River (at River Park, near Lincoln Square). I thought donating my photography services would be a great way to learn more about the organization and to help raise more awareness about plastic pollution.

The original plan was to have me photograph from a canoe, but that changed due to the number of people in attendance. With each canoe in use during the event, I organized a plan to document from the riverbank instead.

Thankfully, I had researched the area, and I had a general understanding of the best possible vantage points available to me. Using a telephoto lens, a bridge, and some random gaps in a fence, I was able to run around and photograph the work.

Throughout the year, Friends of the Chicago River hosts a variety of events. For now, many of their spring events are being canceled or postponed due to the current outbreak of Covid-19. When it is safe to gather again, you can expect more opportunities to volunteer with them in the future!

Cleaning up the Chicago River is no easy task, which is why many volunteers are needed - Event Photography by Michael Courier
Cleaning up the Chicago River is no easy task, and many volunteers are needed to help with the effort.

Resources for Covid-19

While Covid-19 continues to impact daily life, I’ll continue posting images from previous events — highlighting local organizations, their missions, and the communities they serve.

If you’ve been financially impacted during this trying time, I’ve compiled a list of local and national resources that may be able to help ease your situation. As I discover new resources, I’ll continue to add them to the list.

To clean up the Chicago River, volunteers have to use a canoe - Event Photography by Michael Courier
An overhead view of volunteers removing litter and debris from the riverbank of the Chicago River - Event Photography by Michael Courier
Litter and debris that was collected along the riverbank of the Chicago River - Event Photography by Michael Courier
Volunteers hold up the litter they collected during the cleanup event - Event Photography by Michael Courier
Staff and volunteer guides for the Friends of the Chicago River pose for a group photo after the cleanup event - Event Photography by Michael Courier
Staff and volunteer guides for Friends of the Chicago River pose for a group photo after the cleanup event.

EdgeFest 2019

Funkadesi performs at the South Stage during EdgeFest 2019 - Event Photography by Michael Courier.
Funkadesi performs at EdgeFest 2019. Their sound blends “Indian music — bhangra, Bollywood, Indian folk — with reggae, funk, and Afro-Caribbean grooves.” You can learn more about them on their website.

This is Not Ideal

It’s difficult to talk about event photography without first acknowledging Covid-19 and the chaos it has brought — upending families and the structure of modern society.

As an artist and self-employed small business owner, who works within the events and hospitality industry, it is an especially unnerving time as my calendar has been cleared for the foreseeable future.

However, while my situation is not ideal, I am fortunate to have a loving partner with a steady income. We have our health and each other. While this situation continues to develop, it is apparent that others are not as fortunate.

If you’re feeling helpless during this time, please know that little actions can have a big impact. Isolating yourself during this pandemic will help slow the spread of the coronavirus, allowing our healthcare systems time to recover. Where possible, buy what you need without hoarding, allowing others to have access to much-needed items as well. And please — wash your hands.

For artists in financial need, others have compiled resources to help ease your situation. Lawyers for the Creative Arts has a list of local resources available to our community. Additionally, another group of artists has compiled an exhaustive list of freelancer resources and income opportunities available across the nation.

If you’re among the fortunate, whose income is unabated during this crisis, please consider donating to local organizations working in your community. In this time of uncertainty, we all must be good friends and neighbors — checking in on those we love, and offering help where we can. Please do not be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

The front of the Pet Parade during EdgeFest 2019 - Event Photography by Michael Courier.
The head of the Pet Parade during EdgeFest 2019.

Another Perspective

It’s been months since I’ve posted new images to my site. It makes sense to do it now, as a way to pass time and to make sure certain creative muscles do not atrophy — though it’s difficult to not look at these images through the context of our current situation.

These people aren’t social distancing! Did they wash their hands!? They are outside! I want to be outside…

I say this, tongue firmly in cheek, but as I look back through my work and career, and examine the industry in which I work, I’m left with emotions and thoughts that I cannot entirely pinpoint at the moment. Some leave me a tad uneasy, while others leave me hopeful and optimistic.

Over the coming days, and unfortunately — months, I’ll attempt to work through these thoughts. For now, I’m excited to share a few images from August 2019!

Edgewater Pet Mayor, Pax the Goat, at EdgeFest 2019 - Event Photography by Michael Courier.
Edgewater Pet Mayor, Pax the Goat, enjoying a celebratory grazing outside of a local business.

EdgeFest 2019

Each year, the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce hosts EdgeFest, a two-day festival located in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago. As a chamber member, and neighborhood resident, I’m fond of this event for many reasons, but for one reason in particular — it’s a block from my apartment! It’s the easiest commute imaginable.

EdgeFest includes a variety of activities, including live music, food, and activities for all ages. The festival also held its inaugural Pet Mayor election, where Pax the Goat obtained the majority of the vote.

Due to the current coronavirus situation, all events are tentatively scheduled, but the festival should be returning later this summer — and if you’re curious, you can view my photos from the 2018 festival.

Live music EdgeFest 2019 - Event Photography by Michael Courier.
Fun with friends at EdgeFest 2019 - Event Photography by Michael Courier.
Having fun at EdgeFest 2019 - Event Photography by Michael Courier.
A pet enjoying EdgeFest 2019 - Event Photography by Michael Courier.

Hiking in Massachusetts

Hiking in Massachusetts through the Middlesex Fells Reservation.

The past few months have been busy with client projects — photographing theatrical performances and a variety of nonprofit events. When work finally settled down, I took a few days off to visit close friends in the Boston area. While I was there, I spent a few hours hiking through the Middlesex Fells Reservation.

The hike allowed me to explore an unfamiliar place, and to mentally recharge — if only for a moment.