Photography in Chicago

by Chris Duesing

The Chicago Photography Center is unfortunately no more. However, there are still tons of resources for photographers in the City! I have compiled a list, organized by need, so have a look and I’m sure you will find what you are looking for. If not, drop me a line, my email is at the bottom of the article.

Camera Shops

Central Camera

Central Camera is the oldest camera store in Chicago, and the last of several well known dedicated camera shops. Central Camera carries digital and film cameras, lenses, tripods, accessories as well as film and darkroom chemicals. Basically any equipment you might need as a photographer.

The building burned in 2020 during the George Floyd protests. Third-generation owner, Don Flesch, whose grandfather started the business, told media outlets “We’re gonna rebuild it, and make it just as good or better… We lost inventory, no lives were lost, nobody got hurt.” When asked by the reporter, “Are you angered, frustrated?”, Don responded, “No, I’m angered about what started it… that poor guy [George Floyd] getting hurt and dying.”. I think we can all agree that is the kind of business and business owner we can stand behind. Thanks to a GoFundMe and the support of volunteers the business the location is already in the process of reopening. Let’s all be sure to support Don and his store!

Dodd Camera

Dodd Camera is a small camera chain with most of its locations in Ohio and one store in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago. They sell digital and film cameras, film development supplies, and rent camera equipment.

Tamarkin Camera

As a Leica-file I would be remiss to not mention Tamarkin Camera Chicago’s own family owned Leica centric camera shop. Run by Dan Tamarkin, son of the founder of the original NY location. They have a great selection of new and used cameras, lenses and accessories. They also do educational videos, small exhibitions, and run an online auction for rare gear. This is where I acquired my M7, and I could not have been happier with the service.

Museums and Galleries

Art Institute of Chicago

Located in downtown Chicago, the Art Institute is one of the world’s great art museums, housing a collection that spans centuries and the globe. The Art Institute of Chicago’s permanent photography collection began 70 years ago, before which photography appeared in exhibitions as far back as 1900. The museum has highlighted periods and styles including photojournalism in the 1950s, 19th-century photography and emerging artists like Robert Frank in the 1960s, and in the following decade became a pioneering center for exhibitions on conceptual art and new media. The archives include pictures and rare photo-illustrated books and magazines numbering around 24,000 objects.

Museum of Contemporary Photography

Columbia College’s MoCP is a museum space dedicated entirely to photography, the only one of its kind in the midwest.

Since its founding in 1987, the Catherine Edelman Gallery has established itself as one of the leading galleries in the US devoted to the exhibition of prominent living photographers, alongside new & young talent. To date the Catherine Edelman Gallery has hosted 245 public exhibitions, featuring more than 200 artists. The gallery is currently open by appointment only.

Filter Photo

Filter Photo is a nonprofit photographic arts organization with Filter Space, an exhibition and educational space in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood. Here they exhibit a robust roster of internationally recognized artists and host social, educational, and professional development activities for photo-based artists and the broader community. They also run the annual Filter Photo Festival, a multi-day celebration of photography that includes workshops, lectures, exhibitions, and portfolio reviews.

I have attended a workshop in the space as well as participated in portfolio reviews at the festival. It is a great organization run by really wonderful people.

Stephen Daiter Gallery offers fine and vintage examples of important classic American and European photography from the 20th century. They specialize in avant-garde, experimental and documentary/photojournalism. Works include ones from the Chicago School of Design, the Bauhaus, the Photo League, and the André Kertész Estate. The gallery’s contemporary program presents both classic and recent work by established mid-career artists that reflects the ever changing ideas and look of contemporary photography.

Film Development

Chicago Community Darkroom

If you want to develop and print your own negatives, but don’t have the equipment or space at home, this may be the perfect option for you. A small, not for profit outfit in the south loop, the Chicago Community Darkroom is a membership space where anyone can take a class to learn how to develop and print, and then use the facilities for a small monthly fee. I took their film development course, it was a very small, intimate class and extremely hands on.

CSW Film Systems

CSW Film Systems, is the last pure analog film processor in Chicago. Oson Chin, owner of the business, has posted that his lab is currently closed, without a specified reason or reopening date. Check out the short documentary below about Oson and his shop. Hopefully everything is ok and we hear back from him soon.

Central Camera does drop off development as well, though they send out to a lab so the wait may be a bit longer.

Scanning and Printing


LATITUDE is a nonprofit community digital lab in Chicago that maintains a digital lab with high-end printing and scanning equipment, operate an artist in residence program, and organize ongoing arts programming. They are open to the public, including artists, photographers, students, educators, and enthusiasts. They offer services as well as DIY use of their equipment. They also have classes on using their equipment as well as related photographic activities like a large format critique group. Appointments are needed to utilize the space, which they share with Filter Photo.


Printlab has been offering photo printing for over 30 years. They specialize in fine art printing and professional photo printing using the latest digital pigment printing techniques. They tout having worked with award-winning commercial and fine art clients whose prints have been in museums, gallery exhibitions, books and publications. They used to, but no longer, offer film development.

Camera Repair

Chicago Camera Specialists

Chicago Camera Specialists repairs film and digital cameras in house. They have reopened post Covid, but are currently by appointment only.

International Camera, Inc.

International Camera’s website is a disaster, but their reviews are generally good. They offer film and digital camera repair.

Photography Groups

Chicago Streets and Beyond

Chicago Streets and Beyond Photography Group is a Meetup group run by Rich Kolar that does various photo walks and events around the city. I have attended several walks, its actually a pretty large group and outings can be quite well attended. It skews towards novice photographers and is welcoming to all.

Chicago Street Photography Collective

Paul Baldinado and I started a group for street photographers in Chicago to develop a community of like minded individuals. We began with photo walks and added online critiques and discussion. Momentum slowed quite a bit as Paul moved to NYC, I had my son, and then the Pandemic struck. Hopefully some members will be able to get out again. If you are interested in taking part head over to the Facebook Group

Photography Classes

I am a bit hesitant to do a section on this. There is a big name, you can no doubt find by googling, but I don’t see much point in sitting in a classroom listening to someone lecture. There are countless free resources online to learn the basics of a camera, youtube is a great place to start. From there I would suggest you just run around your house and neighborhood practicing, and join a group like Chicago Streets and Beyond (listed above) to have some people to ask questions of and help you out. Photography is best learned by doing.

That said, if you are the kind of person who is super technically challenged and doesn’t even know where to start, then perhaps a classroom based intro is exactly what you need. No shame in whatever path you need to take, as long as you get started! The one course I would recommend is SAIC’s.

School of the Art Institute of Chicago Intro to Digital Photography Class

SAIC’s Adult/Continuing Studies Intro to Digital Photography course will be running from October 4 to December 6 2021, Mondays from 6-9pm in person at the school. I haven’t taken this particular course, but I did take the equivalent intro to drawing course and it was fantastic. The class size was small-ish, there was a big mix of ages and backgrounds, the instructor was fantastic, highly recommended.

Chicago Photographers

Chicago photographers often focus on the photography medium as a way to document social issues and communities’ conditions. There is also an interest in urban landscapes and street photography. Landscape and city’s contradictions.

Lewis Wickes Hine

(1874-1940) Sociologist and photographer graduated from the University of Chicago. He employed photography as a tool for social change and reform, documenting children’s labor and immigrants’ conditions. Lewis Hine worked for social justice throughout his career, concentrating often on immigrant laborers.

He held views very similar to Chicagoan Jane Addams. In the year this Chicago picture was taken, Addams published Twenty Years at Hull House, referring to the settlement home for immigrants that she had founded in the city with Ellen Gates Starr. The Settlement was an attempt to relieve the overaccumulation at one end of society and the destitution at the other. It must have a deep and abiding sense of tolerance. It must be hospitable and ready for an experiment. Its residents must regard the entire life of their city as organic, to make an effort to unify it, and to protest against its economic over-differentiation.

artwork: Chicago Slums (1910) ; Italian family

Ray Kruger Metzker

(1931-2014) Photographer from Milwaukee, he graduated from the Institute of Design in Chicago. This working process evolved during Metzker’s first major project, My Camera and I in the Loop, 1957-1958, which was his graduate thesis at the Institute. Metzker’s initial “term” for The Loop was the physical boundary formed by Chicago’s elevated railway, which encircles downtown. As Metzker photographed, he realized that the project was also about formal limitations: the relationship between his camera and himself, and his search for significant form, which took precedence over the objects yielding the forms. Using a Leica (with 35mm, 50mm, and 135mm lenses) and a Rolleiflex, he made images that explore motion blur, depth of field, vantage point, frame, focus, and back lighting, a sampling of the in-depth explorations that later work would compass. (…) Beginning with The Loop, Metzker looked to street activity for what he calls “events.” “I would see those relationships developing, and I would feel something fall into place,” he says. “It wasn’t that I came up to something and said, isn’t that a nice arrangement? It was a sense of the tension, of knowing that these things were moving, and also that they had come into a position where the tensions were right and that was it. After a while it could happen simply with light.

artwork: The Loop series,;

John H White

John H White was a photographer for the Chicago Sun Times and as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s DOCUMERICA project. In 1982, White was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for photojournalism

John H White

Gordon Parks

Vivian Maier

Chuck Jines

Chuck Jines is a well known street photographer from Chicago. His preferred subject matter is people living on the streets and those with addictions. Chuck is extremely outspoken on his opinions and a very interesting character. I took a street photography workshop he offered several years ago. If you want to see someone who is not afraid to get in people’s faces to take a photo then you won’t want to miss Chuck in action.

Other Photographers

Robert Heinecken (1931-2006). Californian photographer who taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. “para-photographer” because he so often made photographic images without a camera. Appropriated images from film, magazines, and television to satirize American popular culture.

Joseph Jachna (1935-2016). Born in Chicago, an intimate photographer. He also photographed natural manifestations and the environment.

Thomas Knudtson, born in 1939. Photographer, series “Chicago the Rising City” (1970-71).

Yasuhiro Ishimoto (1921-2012), american-japanese photographer, studied with Siskind and Callahan. Street photographer.

Terry Evans, born in 1944. She photographed the prairies and plains of North America and the urban prairie of Chicago (Revealing Chicago project). One-person shows at the Chicago Art Institute.

Bob Thall, born in 1949. Chicago photographer, specialized in urban street scenes.

Dawoud Bey, born in 1953. Photographer has resided in Chicago since 1998. Reflective photographs that represent African American life and landscapes of slave history

Thomas Struth, born in 1954. Series of photos in museum institutions, including ARTIC.

Jeanne Dunning, born in 1960. Photographer, master at the art institute of Chicago.

Know of any other resources I should add? Shoot me an email: chris@ (this domain).

Further Reading
Chris Duesing
Chris Duesing

I am a photographer, writer, entrepreneur, and programmer living in the great city of Chicago. I love to solve problems with technology and share what I have learned along the way.