WESTTOWN — A Westtown photographer who created a series of portraits encouraging people to support local businesses during the pandemic shows how those business owners are living in 2022. working on it again.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, West Town photographer Candice Cusick saw neighborhood stores, including her own, forced to close.
Cusic’s primary work through her company, Candice C. Cusic Photography, 1821 W. Hubbard St., is where she takes “moment-driven” portraits of people and, increasingly, of pets. . Those appointments creaked to a halt in the first few months after COVID-19 hit. But her Cusic, a former photojournalist for the Tribune, said she felt she had to capitalize on her skills and her longtime love of the neighborhood.
In the spring of 2020, Cusic began reaching out to business owners all over Chicago Avenue and West Town, asking if they could take photos for what would become her Save Local portrait series.
Before each photo shoot, Cusic spoke with business owners on the phone to ask how they were surviving the early stages of the pandemic.
Cusic posted the images to Instagram and Facebook, eventually photographing more than 50 small business owners in the wider West Town area. Each was accompanied by a brief description of its own challenges, concerns and fears.
“I wanted to keep Westtown in the public eye, not just for my own sanity, but to keep me busy during this uncertain time. I wanted the public to see the faces of the people on the street because when you actually walk up and down Chicago Avenue, nobody was open at the time,” says Cusic.
Cusic photographed West Town business owners of all kinds, including Alcala’s Western Wear, Chicago Truborn Gallery, Beauty Bar, and Odge’s Restaurant, all for free.
As needed, the first wave of 2020 photo shoots were quick, often lasting just a few minutes, and held outdoors to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
“I tried to keep it as simple as possible. It was just one camera, one lens, one light,” says Cusic. “Wearing a mask and gloves, each shot took him less than five minutes.
“So that led to a collection of photos that are very bright, very colorful, very punchy, with a lot of reflections in the windows.”
More than two years later, Cusic’s photography business is back in full swing, she said. However, in her busy schedule, she decided to return to her photography series, relaunching it on social media as Save Local Business: Two Years Later.
So far, Cusic has reunited with about 30 people he shot in 2020 for a second shoot.
Cusic posts each new photo online alongside her 2020 photos. This includes a look at each business’s highs and lows over the past two years.
“It’s a lot of work, but I would have liked to have seen a happy ending. I really wanted to reconnect with all these beautiful faces, but everyone is too busy with work right now. I wanted to live in and see how the community supported them,” Cusic said.
Cusic said this series of photo shoots was more intensive with additional lights, color gels and calculated composition. Cusic can also go inside companies and record their owners’ actions.
“We’ve definitely spent more than five minutes trying to create something really dramatic.
For Richard Alcala, owner of Alcala’s Western Wear (1733 W. Chicago Ave.), the series was a great way to showcase the vibrancy of West Town businesses during the pandemic.
“It really makes the community more conscious and more cohesive,” said Alcala, whose family has run Western apparel stores for 50 years.
During two photo shoots for Alcala, he said he was impressed with Cusic’s photography and her interviewing skills.
“Honestly, she made me feel very comfortable. “It never felt like an interview.”
Cusic hopes to eventually showcase the series in physical formats like studio exhibits and books.
Until then, Cusic said he’s been inspired by the appreciation he’s received from West Town businesses and fans of the series. He said it was fulfilling and fun.
“This is very different from shooting in my studio, pets, and their owners. ‘ she said.
Listen to It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast: