My Teachers: Bob Thall




When I first began to looking into graduate programs, my previous professor Andrew Borowiec (more on him later) suggested I look into the program at Columbia College. The first name I recognized on the faculty list, (and chair of the department) was Bob Thall. I can’t recall where I first saw Bob’s work, perhaps Andrew showed it to me, or maybe I came across his amazing book the New American Village, but I do recall being so struck that Bob had made so many of the pictures of urban Chicago Thomas Struth seemed to miss, sometimes just around the corner, others made some time before the fact. With his pictures in mind, my graduate school choices were become very clear..
In many graduate programs the first semester one in which it becomes clear that though you think you know a lot, in fact one knows so little. Class with Bob proved this. He challenged my foundation of thought in terms of process and motivation and pushed us to think far beyond anything comfortable or convenient. His book of photographs of Schaumburg, IL transformed the way I looked at suburbia and was a huge catalyst for my own projects.

Some of my favorite Thallian moments:
• Running into Bob in a Walgreens and being startled by the contents of his basket.
• Bob equating a fellow students work to a recipe for soup. ‘It’s not like you would put the entire contents of the fridge into the soup, you have to choose your ingredients’.
• Finding out that at any moment Bob has loaded 4×5 film holders on his person or within reach. This became evident while on a shoot on the roof of the Museum of Contemporary Art and Bob borrowing Matt Siber’s camera view camera and running off to make some pictures.

Of the many concepts I took was from Bob was to be patient, dilligent and that photography can be the result of a prolonged investigation of the subject. Bob has several books, The Perfect City, The New American Village, City Spaces, and recently At City’s Edge.

Projects developed while in class with: color street photographs, notifbutwhen video, early Copia

2 Comments

  1. Posted March 12, 2007 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    And he wrote a stellar introduction to Gary Stochl’s “On City Streets”.

  2. Posted March 18, 2007 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

    Brian,
    Great timing on this post i just picked up The New American Village and it’s an outstanding book as i continue to explore the cityscapes of Elgin.

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