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Wicker Park Portrait Project to Tell Stories of Neighborhood Faces

 Andrew Miller shares his Wicker Park Portrait Project so far.
Wicker Park Portrait Project
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WICKER PARK — Photographer Andrew Miller has become known in Wicker Park as the neighbor who takes striking photos of iconic buildings and rainbows, but he's now turning his focus to a more intimate project: portraits of local personalities.

Miller, a 33-year-old freelance photographer, became something of a neighborhood celebrity after a photo he took of a double rainbow went viral last summer.

After capturing grand cityscapes and urban architecture, Miller is now venturing into the less familiar territory of photographing people where they work and live, called environmental portraits.

"I think cityscapes get a lot of likes and they can sell prints, [but] you need to be able to take great photos of people," Miller said.

It's called the "Wicker Park Portrait Project" for now, but Miller plans to eventually include Humboldt Park, Logan Square, Bucktown and other parts of West Town.

He's taken about a dozen stills so far but wants to amass a large collection and someday include them in a public art installation, like in a park or on the side of a building.

Miller is accustomed to taking landscape photos as well as studio portraits, but he said this project has included vastly different challenges to tackle. Unlike buildings, these photos require him to reach out and interact with both strangers and neighborhood figures.

"I always felt intimidated," Miller said.

But a big advantage of these portraits over studio photos is what can happen when people are captured in a natural environment, Miller said.

"You can bring more out of them when they’re in their comfort zone," Miller said.

So far, his photos include mixologists at The Violet Hour, a man getting inked at Metamorph Tattoo Studios and a Bucktown resident smoking near a mural, among others.

A goal of his with this project is to show the variety of workers and residents who coexist in the same neighborhoods, even if it's not always harmonious, he said.

Miller said he often sees how the rapid changes in real estate and demographics in Wicker Park can create divides, and he hopes he'll be able to bring out the positives by capturing people and places from all generations that others can connect with.

"We’re all still just people trying to work, trying to live," Miller said.

Miller said he's still on the lookout for people who'd like to get involved in the project, and those interested can email him at acmillerphoto@gmail.com.