The skyline flattens as you near the fringes of the city. Out here, it’s commanded by conveyor belts, pipelines, and storage tanks. To most Chicagoans, these sites are nameless landmarks or ugly polluters they drive by on the way to somewhere else. But five or so nights a month, Dave Jordano goes in search of them.
The fine art photographer, retired from commercial work, is best known for the portraits he took of residents of his hometown for his 2015 book, Detroit: Unbroken Down. Since then, the longtime Chicagoan has been hunting for nighttime scenes devoid of city dwellers, spotting beauty in the stark lines of industrial architecture. “I’m just looking at American structures and how these things lay in the landscape among us and all around us,” he says. “At night they feel a little more dominant than they do during the day.”
For these images, he relies mostly on ambient light (from the moon, streetlamps, and the sites themselves) and long exposures (from 30 seconds to a few minutes). The resulting terrestrial still lifes are serene yet dramatic, quiet acknowledgments of the human labor that helped build this city. “Chicago is a working town, a blue-collar kind of place,” Jordano says. “This is sort of an homage to all those people.”
(Above) Beelman Truck Co.
104th Street at the Calumet River, East Side
“It looks like a mountainscape, but those are actually salt mounds,” says Jordano. “This was a big site, like the size of several football fields. It’s lit from a cement-processing plant off to the right. I just drove right up to it. There was no gate, nothing. Sometimes drivers would show up to drop off salt, and they’d sleep in their trucks.”