Monday, July 6, 2009

I've Arrived, but First Things First

Well, hello everyone. What appears as true is true, I've arrived at the world of blogging. So here I am and here we go but first things first; why am I here?

Many people had suggested to me that I needed a blog. Why I wondered? Could it really be that my thoughts and ideas are so compelling that I need to publish them? Who exactly would want to read it and more over why would they care? I'm still not sure I completely understand but I do have a better understanding of what it's all about. Yes, I'll be the first to admit that it's pretty easy to get wrapped up into what someone has written, even when it's just an ongoing, endless and sometimes senseless ramble. See, you're into it now. I think I've got you. Read on.

Alright, so I've started a blog. What's next? It's got to have a name they said. Okay, that should be easy, let's see, what'll I call it? Grant's Blog? No, too simple. Grant Davidson Speaks!? Naah, again, who cares? Hmmm. How about 5th Floor? Yeah, 5th Floor; it's catchy, somewhat compelling and it sounds sophisticated. Great, 5th Floor it is!

What, you question me as to why I might choose such a name. You're right, I don't work on the 5th Floor, my house certainly doesn't have a 5th Floor and no, the 5th Floor is not the place of my favorite coffee house (I don't even drink the stuff)...alright you got me; it's a shameless plug for the title to one of my newest fine art photography prints. Catchy though, isn't it?

And so it goes, 5th Floor it shall be!

Now that I have sufficiently etched the name somewhere within your brain let me tell you a little story of how the print came to be.

My wife Beth and I took a trip to Chicago last fall, October to be exact, just a week prior to the presidential election. We went primarily to see the theatrical production of Wicked and to just explore the area. I had been to the Windy City but only for meetings so I'd never really had a chance to experience the city itself. Wow, it was fantastic. The fall weather was gorgeous and as you can imagine the city was beginning to anticipate a post-election party like no one had ever seen. The city was at a spectacular season ending peak!

With camera in hand Beth and I set out to see as much as possible in a four day whirl-wind adventure. She was the tour guide and had a great plan in place. My job was to keep up and pay attention. One of the things on our agenda was to see some of the great artwork that Chicago is known for. We visited the famed Chicago Art Institute and saw everything from primitive sculptures to post modern paintings and even saw Grant Wood's original "American Gothic" portrait of the old farmer with his pitchfork and unmarried daughter; priceless.

From there we ventured across Michigan Avenue to visit a much less conspicuous but historical structure known as the Fine Arts Building. The Romanesque design building was the original showroom for the Studebaker company's wagon carriages in 1895 but was soon transformed into an artist's retreat in 1898. Home to more than 160 artists some of the famed former tenants include sculptor Lorado Taft who some of you western Kentucky folks may recognize as the the artist of the Chief Paduke statue in Paducah, Ky. The building was also once the studio homes to L. Frank Baum, author of The Wizard of Oz and to Frank Loyd Wright, one of Americas greatest residential design architects. Wrights office on the 10th floor of the building offered inspiring views of Lake Michigan as well as reminders of the harsh winter ahead.

Being the only people in the building that looked like tourists, a gracious gentlemen suggested to Beth and I that we take the elevator up to the top floor and then walk back down in order to see some of the buildings wonderful offerings. What a treat. We stepped onto the elevator, a hand operated elevator, and was asked by the operator of nearly 60 years if we were going to the top, we obviously looked like tourists. We said yes and he went to work immediately shutting the brass accordion style doors behind us, and off we went. It was amusing and so interesting at the same time watching this man working the pulley system to lift us to our final stop. While on the 10th floor we saw some wonderful murals by a few of the original tenants who enjoyed success and studies all over the world. Needless to say I was inspired. I couldn't help but to be sucked into the very corners of the building breathing in the history and enjoying the awe of this great institute.

I had my camera working taking pictures to later reminisce but also to capture something intriguing. I knew there was something about the old nostalgic building that I could use but hadn't figured out what just yet. As we descended down the old stairway making stops on each floor it finally hit me halfway down that the stairway itself was such a important part of the building that I wanted to capture it and show it in an interesting way. If the stairway could talk it could have told countless stories of some of the great artists that had made their daily walk up and down the old decorative slate steps while steadying each step by holding on to the endless wooden oak handrail supported by ornate spindles for the entire trip. At the bottom flight of each step to the next floor the stairs spilled out onto a golden cream colored marble floor and balancing each floor was an old primitive looking bench much like a church pew. The combination of all these elements were perfect. I just had to get the right angle.

Beth had walked on down to the floor below me as I surveyed the options for my shot. I decided to stay on the 5th floor and shoot downward toward the most bottom portion of the staircase. Since I didn't have a view camera to correct lens distortion I decided to close down my lens as much as possible to maintain a sharp image from top to bottom. Lighting in the building was dim and cast an eerie shadow across the stairs from the corridor on each floor. Without a tripod I had to steady myself and hope for an image that remained in good focus. I held my breath for the split second required on the exposure and got the shot.

After some post-processing work I decided on a square format to match the shape of the stairwell. What you see to the right is the final image. Note how the square format in conjuction with the angle of the stairs give a false perseption of distortion to the image format. It looks good as it is but to see it in it's intended larger size is what I'm most proud of. I hope you enjoyed the story and the picture now known as 5th Floor.

Come back often as I hope to blog about a lot of things including more photography, Harley-Davidson adventures and just cool stuff in general. Comment as you wish, I'd love to hear from you and your thoughts.


To see more about the Chicago Fine Arts Building go to

Also, to see more of my work go to Search Grant Davidson to view my current work online and to vote and make comments about the artwork.


  1. Interesting. How old are you? I'm from W.KY & will plan to attend your showing at Yeiser. I'll look for your picx.

  2. You are the best - in all your photos-

    from your best critic