Self-Portrait

The architectural photographer Barbara Karant turns her camera on her house in Bucktown—and on her rescued greyhounds.

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The architectural photographer Barbara Karant and I are sitting in the two-story living and dining area of her loftlike house in Bucktown one summer afternoon talking about how she came to be here. The rooms of others are her usual subjects; now her own place is the focus.

Dressed in her typical summer attire—denim shorts and a vibrant Hawaiian shirt—Karant, the principal of Karant+Associates, looks as if she is ready for a sophisticated urban luau. She fits right in here—in this lively, open space with white walls, warm light, and midcentury modern furniture covered in hot spots of bold color: cobalt blue, shamrock green, rose red. But a sense of peacefulness prevails; the presence of Karant’s three greyhounds—Fancy, Turtledove, and Slim—lulls us. Lithe, leggy beauties, each in a rhinestone-studded leather collar, they snooze soundly on their dog beds. Karant is the president of the Chicago-area rescue group Greyhounds Only, and her dogs are retired racers.

As an architectural photographer, Karant is a perfectionist, and her dogs seem like great kick-back, calm-down company for someone who is obsessed with her work. “They’re known as 40-mile-an-hour couch potatoes,” Karant says, explaining that many people have the mistaken idea that greyhounds are wound up and jumpy.

Karant herself was in total-motivation mode in 1995, when she decided that she wanted to sell her condomin-ium in the DePaul area (too many neighbors, not enough green space) and buy a house. Along the way, she asked Joe Valerio, a principal in the architecture firm of Valerio Dewalt Train Associates and a client since the early eighties, to check out possibilities. How could she go wrong? Obviously a fellow let’s-do-it kind of person, Valerio, when asked to provide a mission statement for an architectural directory, proffered this succinct phrase for his firm: “Build or die.” Karant and Valerio decided to build.

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Photography: Barbara Karant; photo styling by Diane Ewing

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