Andrew Steiner, “Wide Awake Dreaming,” Photography Exhibit at Eat Paint Studio

Hollywood Beach, FL © Andrew Steiner

Purchase the exhibition catalog.

[Chicago – July 12, 2019] Eat Paint Studio will open a solo exhibition of photographs by Andrew Steiner on August 2, on view through September 7. Wide Awake Dreaming suggests an internal experience transposed on an observed external moment. Following personal themes of isolation and longing that reflect a larger socioeconomic portrait of America, Andrew’s photographs document Chicago neighborhoods as well as small towns like East Chicago, Indiana and Andrew’s hometown of Fairport, NY.

An intuitive awareness of space and time permeate Andrew’s work in his current exhibit, Wide Awake Dreaming. In the image “Hollywood Beach” we see two young women walking along a beach – observed but unaware of being observed. The figures draw us into what becomes a complex abstract landscape. Two round planters to their immediate right echo an hourglass shape in negative space while they (because there is some weight of personality to them) stand apart – perhaps watching the watcher.

A kaleidoscope of high contrast vertical lines lure us deeper into the beach; or desert as there is no respite in an ocean view, only hot sand and canvas. Just when we can’t see a way out of this maze of lines and shapes, a flit of spontaneous whimsy appears in the sliver of sky just visible – a single person dangling from a large coasting balloon…

Man on the Beach

In “Man at the Beach,” a hirsute man looks out over an overcast lakefront, seated on a white towel and surrounded by weedy flowers.

There is a gentleness in the slumped repose of a man in self-reflection; a beauty in the details of grass, dandelions, and bushy tufts of shoulder hair. “It is beautiful because it exists,” the image seems to say. The white towel on the ground could almost be a magic carpet as it mirrors the active passage of clouds above. A bald patch on the ground near the rocks merges with the bald patch on the man’s head – a humorous connection between man and nature. The jetty extends to meet the open water and ends in a vertical structure to warn off boats. A single breaker is weathered but upright.

The man, the breaker, the jetty are all lone sentinels sharing a single viewpoint of the lake. Like the lake, we see the surface of everything in minute detail, but the depths remain hidden. We see him and at the same time he remains a stranger. 

Echoes of the work of Helen Leavitt and Walker Evans are clear in Andrew’s subway portraiture. The pathos and isolation of modern life seem to seep into the frame from the rush hour press of humanity. Three tightly packed people are illuminated by the light of an overhead advertisement. They adopt a distant glower even as the advertisement above them shows a similarly arranged trio enjoying the shared experience of meeting new people. 

We can also see the influence of Bruce Davidson in Andrew’s ability to get up close and personal with his subjects. Their candid, unvarnished expressions become intimate and real in the context of the bunny-eared, audience-aware trend of selfies and personal brands. Choosing to work in black and white creates a heightened awareness of nuanced detail.

About Andrew Steiner

Andrew Steiner is a self-taught documentary photographer originally from Rochester, New York. He started shooting film at age 15 when he took a photography class with early mentor and documentary photographer Bruce Bennett at the Norman Howard School in Upstate New York. Andrew moved to Chicago in 1998 and began shooting for NewCity and UR Chicago magazines. Andrew’s clients include The Gene Siskel Film Center, Crain’s Communications, and The Jane Goodall Institute. Mr. Steiner’s work has been published in burn. Magazine, PDN News Online, and other online journals. Andrew shoots both film and digital. He currently lives in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago.