Chicago Photographers Share Their Favorite Photo of 2021

As the year comes to a close, we asked some of our favorite Chicago photographers to share their standout image from 2021. Here are their favorite images, and the stories behind them.

Avinash Biradar

Avinash Biradar

“2021 had some memorable sunsets in Chicago and I was able to capture many of them. This particular sunset came out of nowhere as the sky was normal a couple minutes before. Instantly the sky turned so colorful and it ended up being one of the most vibrant sunsets of Chicago and hence my favorite.”

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Barry Butler

Barry Butler Photography

“Capturing the moon in a unique spot takes a lot of planning, especially since light is a challenge and it’s not in the same spot area for days, unlike the sun. I call this image “Biscuit in the Basket”. This is the moon over one of the skyscrapers in Chicago. I’ve planned this shot over the years, but the weather never cooperated for me to capture it. On this night in July, it finally worked. This is one image (not a composite).”

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Jack Gillespie

Jack Gillespie

“I captured this photo during a flight back to Chicago. I like how this photo demonstrates the scale of the city. I think it serves as a reminder that you could spend a whole lifetime in Chicago and still not see and do everything simply due to how sizable the city truly is.”

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Neil Burger

Neil John Burger Photography

“The most rewarding part of my job as a food photographer is helping other businesses succeed, especially when working with small, local businesses here in Chicago. As the ramifications of COVID continue to damage our hospitality industry, restaurants are still looking for ways to diversify. Vajra, a modern Indian restaurant in West Town, wanted to create an e-commerce website selling high end and collectible wines. They turned to me to help bring their vision to life, and this image is what I created for them. Not only do I find the image to be visually striking, but Vajra Wines has become quite popular, and I’m proud to have contributed in my own way to their success.”

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Maida Skys

Maida Skys

“I picked this photo as my favorite of 2021 because it reflects my view of the beautiful Chicago and the River North. A simple moment turned to magic by adding my signature love for the moon and its reflection in the river. This photo reminds me of my growth as an artist and it showcases how I see Chicago through my eyes.”

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Caleb Andrade

Caleb Andrade

“This is my favorite because it is such a classic spot in Chicago. One that captures Chicago’s uniqueness as a city. The photo represents both the city’s busy, and peaceful aspects that it carries. This place (Lakeshore Beach) is always on the list whenever I’m in the city, especially at sunset.”

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Douglas Jubic

Douglas Jubic

“This was my first year attempting to capture the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival fireworks. Although I had done my research on where I wanted to shoot, I arrived several hours early to ensure I had the right location for what I thought would be the best angle. Arriving that early always draws attention. Everyone is curious about what you’re planning on photographing…especially since the barge shooting the fireworks was not in place yet. Over the course of the next several hours a crowd grew and I interacted with people from Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, and of course, Chicago. Even though it was another tough year there was such a sense of joy and unity throughout the crowd. It was great to see how the city of Chicago embraces such a global audience and how a holiday tradition can bring everyone together.”

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Ken Zen

Ken Zen Photography

“While Chicago is home to many photogenic landmarks that grace the pages of magazines, famously portrayed in movie scenes, and beautifully shown off in Instagram posts, the most popular and most photographed landmark of all is Cloud Gate, aka “The Bean.” If you were to ask visitors to the city if they could visit just one landmark what that would be? Chances are the answer would be The Bean. In fact, tourists from all over the world and participants of popular events such as the Chicago Marathon inevitably make their way to the iconic reflective sculpture to snap a picture as if to say they’ve arrived or to victoriously declare that they have achieved something grand and monumental. Given the popularity of The Bean, whose characteristics can be likened to that of the popular kid in school who is well liked and often surrounded by many, naturally it’s a tell-tale sign of something major has occurred when one sees a photo of the popular sculpture devoid of any human beings being close by. For such an iconic and popular landmark to not be surrounded by throngs of people as this photo portrays is telling. For me, the photo evokes feelings of isolation and nostalgia. And having these feelings leads to thinking about what once was, before the pandemic, and what is now, and how we have shifted our behaviors towards each other, being more socially distant, more reserved in our interactions, and more isolated to a great extent. A favorite of mine, the photo is a vivid portrayal of the sign of our times.”

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Matt Wood

Matt Wood

“I took this photo during a snowstorm in February this year. One of the things I love most about photography is venturing out in conditions when most don’t and having places like downtown Chicago all to myself. This photo really reflects the peacefulness of these situations.”

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Christine Pejoski

Christine Pejoski

“Taken from the 94th floor, this photo is my favorite of 2021. Chicago has the most stunning skyline, and it is a spectacular sight at night. I chose this photo for the beautiful, glittery view of the city I love so much.”

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Sarah Benson

Wildwood Photography

“I finally have a baby of my own to photograph and it has been such a joy sharing him with all of my clients! We had some struggles with fertility and this is the best blessing we could ask for in 2021!”

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Amit Thakral

Amit Thakral

“Although it’s difficult to choose my single favorite photo of 2021 from all of the city images I’ve captured throughout, I would like to be a little biased for this one. These are reflections of cityscape on frozen Chicago river with ice chunks, captured on February 23, 2021. Although it was very challenging to stand outside in 5 degree temperature, it was worth waiting when I saw how clear the reflections came out.”

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Macaire Douglas lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and two sons. She proudly supports Save Abandoned Babies Foundation, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that works tirelessly to prevent the illegal abandonment of newborns nationwide. Since its inception in 2000, more than 3,600 newborns have been safely surrendered and adopted into loving homes.