(b. 1959, resides Chicago, IL)
The development of the modern city and its evolving forms have been compelling subjects for artists since the rise of large cities themselves. Continuing this rich tradition, Chicago-based photographer Alan Thomas offers insight into the nature of urban space today by turning his attention to one of the most-overlooked fixtures in this familiar environment: the parking garage. As Thomas’s photographs reveal, these structures amount to unexpected openings in the otherwise dense urban fabric. While serving as significant elements in the spatial organization of the city, each of the parking ramps also offers wide apertures onto surrounding areas, providing layered views of the city from deep within itself.
The large self-park garages that continue to rise in Chicago and other urban areas may speak to a particular vision of the city’s future, one willing to overwrite the past—one demolished building at a time—in order to satisfy the needs of an increasingly car-dependent culture. But Thomas also observes formal qualities in these constructions that “mirror the native geometry of Chicago.” Resonant with the city’s architectural history, even if inadvertently, the parking garages in these photographs suggest the complicated ways the inhabited landscape affects our sense of the past, present, and future.
Alan Thomas graduated from Princeton University where he studied photography with Emmet Gowin, Frederick Sommer, and Jim Dow. He also holds a master’s degree from Oxford University. Thomas is currently an editorial director at the University of Chicago Press.