Hey everyone, my name is Evan Brightfield. I’m a Chicago based photographer specializing in shooting aerials, architecture, and portraits. I was born in Chicago and raised just outside of the city in Oak Park, Illinois.
When did you first start getting involved with photography/aerial photography?
I’ve been doing this professionally for 3 years now, although its hard to say when I first got into it. My dad was a well known architectural illustrator who started his own company, ImageFiction when I was five years old. Growing up I spent a lot of time at his office on weekends and days off of school. Like any kid in an office, I was easily bored so he would often take me with him to shoot the base photos for his architectural renderings. I vividly remember one day we climbed up a dirt mound in what is now Millennium Park to get the exact angle he needed to render the new park concept. He told me it had to be perfect because it was for Mayor Daley. I didn’t know who Daley was but that was the first time I can remember thinking “Wow, my dad’s job is pretty cool”. After that, photography was always an interest of mine in some way or another.
Aerial photography was what I really got hooked on. In 2014 My dad bought a drone to take aerial photos for his company’s architectural renderings. He asked my brother Luke and myself to learn how to use it, that didn’t take much convincing on our end. A few months later we were self-proclaimed experts at flying, this was around the time that DJI released the Inspire 1, a complete game changer for aerial photographers. The first time I flew it and saw the live camera feed in 4K, all I could think was “This is the coolest thing I’ve ever done; I want to do this every day, forever.” I haven’t flown every day since then, but I try to as much as I can.
What do you look for when taking a photo?
I look for symmetry, balance, geometric patterns, contrasting colors, and of course great lighting. I think the best way to describe my work is “unfamiliar perspectives of familiar subjects”.
How much planning goes into each project you shoot?
Unless it’s a client project, almost all of my shoots are spur of the moment. If I see some really crazy lighting or a cool subject that I’ve never noticed, I’ll pull over and get the drone up in the air. I think that’s the reason that I find unique spots. A lot of people will scour someones Instagram feed to find locations (you know who you are), but that technique will only let you do what’s already been done.
Over the summer, you were able to travel to 5 countries and 21 cities. How was that European trip for you? What was your favorite city/country to shoot?
That project was pretty insane; I had no idea what I was getting into. It ended up being 7 countries, and 35 cities in 23 days on 4 separate river cruises throughout Europe. I had never been outside of North America, so it really opened my eyes to a lot, especially my heritage which is German. It’s really hard to say what my favorite cities were, I spent so little time in each one that I hardly ever got a sense of where I was. I would sometimes take off and land the drone from a moving ship, so I’ve actually never stepped foot in some of the places I shot. If I could go back, my top 5 cities would be Amsterdam, Vienna, Budapest, Paris, and Cologne. Overall, I’d really like to live in Germany at some point in my life.
Can we be expecting anymore work with the Chicago Bulls this year?
Yes! I just shot some “Winter in Chicago” footage for the Run With Us series. They’re awesome to work with and Chris Ramirez does a great job of collaborating with Chicago creatives.
With 2018 just beginning, what do you look to accomplish in these next 51 weeks?
I’d like to keep traveling. I get this creative rush when I’m in a new place and I really feed off of it. I hate to say it but I’m sick of Chicago, at least from a photography standpoint. I don’t need to tell anyone from Chicago how depressing it can be during the winter. To cope I’ve been shooting a lot of portrait work recently. I also took a few trips to LA which is where I can see myself relocating in the near future, we’ll see how that goes…
Favorite photo you’ve ever taken?
The intersection of Fifth and 57th in Manhattan from above. I took it a few years ago on a trip to New York with my dad, you can actually see me on the rooftop with him looking over my shoulder. It means a lot to me because he passed away suddenly in the fall of 2016, just a few days after the photo was licensed by Adidas. He didn’t believe me until I showed him the paperwork, to which he responded “Alright, well where’s my cut? But seriously, I’m proud of you kid.”. Today I keep big canvas prints of it in my apartment and at the ImageFiction office. As cliche as it sounds, it reminds me that he’s still looking over my shoulder.
Favorite city to shoot in?
I shot at sunrise in Budapest, the whole city had this pink/golden glow and the river looked like glass. It was was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in real life, I highly recommend visiting.
Favorite location to shoot in Chicago?
This is probably biased because I live there but Cabrini Green/Goose Island/River West has my favorite views of the city. From above there are some really cool industrial areas that you can’t see from the street (entire lots full of taxis, scrap metal, building materials, etc). I really like to shoot areas that are changing quickly. I’ve always been fascinated with old photos of familiar neighborhoods so for me there’s a magic in the documentation. A few years ago, the west loop was mostly what I shot. Looking back at those photos now, it’s crazy to see how much has been redeveloped in such a short amount of time.
“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.” – Steve Jobs
Favorite thing about photography?
You can’t do it while sitting at a desk. When I was a graphic designer I absolutely hated working at a desk for hours on end. I always needed to get outside and move around. That’s what I love about shooting, it’s always got me on the move and exploring new places. It’s never once felt like I was “at work”.
Make sure to follow Evan on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/evan_brightfield/?hl=en