From left: Jennifer Tanaka, Amalie Drury, and Maria Ponce
This month’s cover story, “Model Citizens,” posed an unusual problem: How do you pick beautiful people? “The most harrowing—and the funnest—part was inventing the process as we went along,” says Jennifer Tanaka, a Chicago senior editor, who headed up the project. Tanaka and her coauthor, Amalie Drury, quietly solicited nominations from trusted sources. “They would always respond with the same thing: ‘What about me?’ ” recalls Drury, who covers nightlife for Chicago.
Meanwhile, the story’s photographer, Maria Ponce, chose the art studio of Wesley Kimler, a popular site for parties, as her setting. The studio teems with Kimler’s art: large-scale oil-on-canvas paintings with bright backgrounds, paper paintings of black blotches sprouting heads, and otherworldly sculptures. After Tanaka and Drury had winnowed the list of nominations down to 50, Tanaka scheduled the photo shoots. “I was surprised people were so willing to trust us,” she says. After all, it’s not every day you get an e-mail saying you’re beautiful and a magazine wants to take your picture.
Wesley Kimler and Amina
When the beautiful people arrived at Kimler’s studio, Tanaka and Drury interviewed them while Ponce adjusted light levels. “Our criteria [for selecting people] had nothing to do with how interesting the person was,” Drury says, “but everyone came with a pretty good story.” Kimler’s art, along with moldering piñatas, a yappy dog, several pet birds swooping and squawking, and his daughter, Amina, got Ponce’s subjects to let their guard down—just as she had hoped. In 2009, she worked with her mother, Ann Ponce, a painter, to create an exhibit called On TV/Off TV, featuring portraits of newscasters. (The father in the family is the Chicago Tonight host Phil Ponce.) Maria Ponce loves portraiture above all other photographic forms. “This is the dream job,” she says. “There’s a lot of beauty in Chicago.”
STACEY JONES Chicago’s fashion director, Stacey Jones, traveled to Puerto Rico last December to oversee two days of photographing on a 1970s-inspired trend for “Viva la Vida,” one of this month’s spring fashion features. “It’s dark, historic, elegant,” Jones says. Because the gods of fashion insist that no photo shoot ever goes exactly as planned, the second day brought a torrential rainstorm. “A hurricane of water is flying down the street, and the model is wearing these pristinely white pants,” Jones recalls. Her role was to hold an umbrella over a massive light (but not herself) to prevent a short.
They got the pictures—though Jones got utterly soaked.
Photography: (Tanaka) Joe C. Moreno; (Drury) Jayson Lawfer; (Ponce) Jason Robinette; (Kimler) Maria Ponce; (Jones) Jack Perno