On June 1, 2018, Allen Bourgeois’ work was featured at the Leica Gallery at Dan Tamarkin’s here in Chicago. I was there for the opening night event along with scores of other attendees. It was also the official launch of Allen’s first book, Streets, Alleys and Other Urban Observations, featuring Allen’s street photography of the residents of Chicago. Having introduced Allen’s work in Viewfinder two years ago, he is now taking the next step with his work by bringing his book out.
Allen began his career in photography after leaving the Marines, studying photography on the GI Bill. He got his first full-time job as a photographer in 1986 and has been a professional photographer in the Chicago area ever since. Allen came to Leica late in his career with the purchase of a Leica M Monochrom in November of 2012. For his professional work, Allen had used Canon SLR and DSLR cameras and Hasselblad. Once he started working with the Leica he sold all of his other camera gear. He now works with the Monochrom, the M262 and now with the M10. He finds that the Leica rangefinder as a camera that really fits the way he works and sees.
In Allen’s own words: “I like equipment that is simple. When I am working, I don’t want to be thinking about the camera and navigating in-camera menus. For me, the Leica M is a camera that simply gets out of the way and gives me the room to work. Seven or eight years ago I began to notice a change in the way I was seeing. A real turn to black and white photography. My work was becoming more about tone, values and shapes and less about color. Cartier-Bresson, Frank, Erwitt, Winogrand, Davidson, Lyon, and Meyerowitz have all influenced me. Trying to find moments of visual meaning in the chaos of the street is what I find so frustrating and yet so satisfying. It is those rare moments when those elements all seem to come together that keeps pushing me out there.”
Allen chose to take the minimalist approach with his book, feeling that he would simply present his images without any explanatory captions or text. He wants his images to stand on their own, letting the viewer be drawn into them without any outside influence or prejudgment. I think his approach works well with his images, many of which have a strong element of irony, encouraging the viewer to become engaged in the act of seeing them. The images are presented in a very straight forward fashion, without any trick layouts or double trucks which would detract from the integrity of the original photos.
If you would like to order your own copy of Allens’s book,
here’s the link: http://www.blurb.com/b/8495841-streets-alleys-and-otherurban-observations