Interview with Emanuel Rios

The staff of Oyez Review is honored with the opportunity to foster artists of all kinds throughout the world – of the written word, canvas, and lens. We took the time to sit down and talk with one such up and coming photographer, Chicagoan Emanuel Rios, about his form and inspiration in the Windy City.

Alicia Drier, Oyez Review (OR): What are some of your favorite places to capture in Chicago?

Emanuel Rios (ER): Museum campus has one of the best views of the city year round, but the lakefront in general presents a great juxtaposition. There is a liminal nature to the lakefront that I’ve always found captivating. Otherwise, I think I have a favorite time rather than a favorite place. I love shooting at odd times in order to capture the city during its quieter moments.

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I took one of my favorite quiet moment photos in NYC while I was wandering through Brooklyn late one Friday night. It was a part of Brooklyn that must have had a very concentrated Hasidic Jewish population because the streets were eerily empty and then all of the sudden there were scattered clusters of families walking past me. Within what seemed like 15 minutes they were all gone again and I was basically alone, wandering down the street. At the time I was completely confused by the experience. I probably wouldn’t have noticed this shop in the picture had I not been in such a perplexed, yet fascinated mood.

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OR: What is your favorite subject to capture in your photography?

ER: I love when a subject makes me feel extremely small, so I tend to seek out views of vast expanses of land or cityscapes. I’ve spent most of my life in the city, so the stars tend to invoke that sensation too, when I get the opportunities to see them.

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OR: How does Chicago compare to other subjects you have approached with your camera?

ER: Chicago offers a ton of great street photography options, though I often find myself uncomfortable photographing strangers. The “look up” opportunities are also endless in the city. Most landscapes are about look horizontally, but the city is built on so many different vertical levels that can capture your attention.

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OR: How does photography work for you as a form of expression? What sort of dialogue do you hope to develop with your photos?

ER: I work a 9 to 5 desk job, so photography works as a calming escape from the mundane repetition throughout the week. I love to toss on headphones and just wander around the city without any destination in mind. In some sense I guess you could say I take the photos to remind myself to get outside more than anything else.

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OR: How do literature and photography connect for you?

ER: I think photography and its relationship to journalism are crucial. National Geographic sparked my interest in photography, but the photos within each article usually served as my motivation to read the contents. There is something about the visceral experience of seeing something that adds a depth difficult to reach through words.

OR: Who are your top three go-to photographers for inspiration?

ER: Ansel Adams is always my number one go to. From a technical perspective, I greatly admire everything he’s done. I sometimes feel lucky that I get to work with modern DSLR cameras, which just makes his photographs all the more impressive to me. Jimmy Chin and Paul Nicklen both photograph for National Geographic and have taken some of the most stunning photos I’ve seen. The lengths they both go to get their shots are astounding. Jimmy Chin and Paul Nicken serve as my motivation to actually get off my butt and go shoot, while Ansel Adams influences aspirations for becoming a better photographer.

OR: How did you develop an interest in photography?

ER: My family had a subscription to National Geographic when I was a kid and even before I was old enough to read the articles, I would flip through each issue just to see their pictures of far off places. I took a few photography courses in high school that focused on developing film shots, but I grew up just as things kind of transitioned over to digital. I’ve always wanted to develop my own film, but it’s a pain in the butt (for me at least), so I committed to digital photography a few years ago. You can do some amazing things with current cameras and editing software, though I try to keep most of my edits simple and capture things as they genuinely exist in the real world.

You can find more of Emanuel Rios’ work on his Instagram.

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About Oyez Review

Oyez Review is the literary magazine of Roosevelt University's MFA Program in Creative Writing. We publish high-quality fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and art from all over the nation and the world!
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