The first Ebert Studio opened almost 100 years ago on Chicago's west side. Since then, four successive generations have preserved memories for countless families in studios that now reside in Oak Park and Hinsdale. At the helm today is Jeff Ebert, the great-grandson of the studio's founder. Jeff makes a very small distinction to give you the big picture—"It's not so much that it's photography," he says, "but it's photographing people."
Making people feel comfortable and look better is just one part of his job. The next part is to create "a piece like a painting that can be hung above a mantle and somebody can be proud of for years and years to come." As the latest in a line of artists stretching back to 1915, Jeff does that well, harnessing the power of passed time and using it to build a portfolio that showcases families, weddings, animals, and individuals. Some of his notable subjects have included Cardinal Francis George, Walter Payton, and film director Christopher Columbus, known for his historical documentary of babysitting, Home Alone.
With the help of Bespoke Photobooths, cheek-to-cheek smiles, fish faces, and festive smooches are captured instantly, allowing them to be splayed across refrigerators and photo books as mementos of happy gatherings. Suit-garbed attendants stand by and welcome up to six guests into the spacious photo booths, where partygoers can don an array of novelty props and pose before an LCD screen. Immediately following the camera flash, the booths kick out strips of color or black-and-white photos, with borders bearing custom text or dates marking weddings, birthday parties, and obedience-school reunions. The company can also arrange keepsakes such as photo books and DVDs for the hosts as a permanent reminder of their special day.
The shutterbugs at Doris Photography alternate between candid shots and casual poses of their subjects, drawing on skills they've honed for more than 20 years. Their flashbulbs flicker for weddings, headshots, and passport photos, and they capture images of newborns to adorn the book jackets of babies’ first novels. Far from a conventional photo studio, Doris Photography rents out its automatic photo booth, sends videographers to events, and creates custom slide shows and invitations.
Marc Hauser’s photographic expertise started as a 13-year-old freshman at New Trier High School, when the Wilmette native launched his boyhood hobby into adulthood with an apprenticeship under Playboy-contributing photographer Stan Malinowski. When one of the magazine's art directors visited Stan's studio, he noticed Marc's prints on the table and turned to Stan and asked, "Would your assistant like to go to California next week and shoot Carly Simon?" From there, notable assignments began to sprout, including John Mellencamp in a muddy field for his cover of Scarecrow, Led Zeppelin in a construction site in London, and the Doobie Brothers watching Amish people cross a field in front of McDonalds.
Marc's HauserTown studio now practices a style of portraiture called "Hauser-Style", in which subjects in their natural state—such as shooting family members while they're distracted and talking to each other. The photographers often go to extreme lengths to capture a unique photograph, such as speaking in funny voices to amuse kids, and barking to get dogs' attention. Subjects can dress up and use props from the collection, such as stuffed elephants or loaves of bread. Above all else, the studio makes sure their clients feel comfortable so they can focus on getting the right shots.
After forging this connection, the unique and striking images captured use simple parameters: shooting in black and white, with one light or natural light, or around a table in his studio. This approach to portraiture has earned Marc more than 100 awards, including Clios for advertising and a Grammy, as well as the public's fascination—a billboard of his portrait of Dennis Rodman stopped traffic on the Kennedy Expressway.
Richard Stromberg is so dedicated to teaching the art of photography that he's held class during a freezing blizzard, a blistering heat wave, and while he was confined to a wheelchair after surgery. Richard brings his fierce dedication and 45 years of photography and teaching experience to his school, where he leads a variety of photography classes alongside a dedicated staff of volunteers. Within spacious classrooms, the seasoned instructors guide students through the techniques of DSLR photography, from basic camera operation to tips on starting up a studio. In addition to mechanics and fundamentals, they also encourage their students to see the world in new aesthetic ways, helping them recognize the beauty of a sunset or the fogged-up monocle of a sensitive millionaire. The dedicated staff can often be spotted at the school before and after class hours helping students work on assignments in the lighting studio, the darkroom, and the expansive computer lab. Twice a year, they showcase pupils’ work in their onsite WithInSight Gallery.
Val Westover and Stephanie Adriana, both authors and photographers, draw from diverse artistic backgrounds. Val once trained hundreds of photographers as the manager of a nationwide portrait studio, and Stephanie has seen her work featured in an array of photography and fashion magazines. Applying fine-tuned artistic styles, they snap candid photojournalistic compositions and posed portraits of new couples, newborns, mothers-to-be, families, and secret families.
They also pass on their skills through step-by-step workshops, during which they use a blend of professional tips and practice exercises to teach the basics of ISO, shutter, and aperture alongside applied artistic principles. They then give protégés free rein to practice what they’ve learned in hands-on, on-location photo safaris, during which students capture shots of wildlife and people.