The past two days in Chicago have been a whirlwind of photo awesomeness.  The photographers here - Chicagraphers, as they call themselves (clever, right?) - are an enthusiastic and welcoming crew.  They seem to love the medium and love their community, and we have felt like VIPs every minute. Yesterday we (the "we" is Sarah Moore - my trusty co-pilot on the east coast leg of the tour - and me) and I had the biggest treat.  Jess Dugan, a supremely talented and incredibly thoughtful and sharp Chicagrapher who is in the MFA program at Columbia College and works as a curatorial assistant at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, pulled out photographs from the museum's collection for us to drool over.  When we were setting this up, she asked what we might like to see, and I told her I wanted her to pull some of her favorites.  I didn't know the museum's collection, and I knew she would know the jewels.

We got to see Sally Mann, Larry Sultan, Mary Ellen Mark, Robert Mappelthorpe, Dawoud Bey, Alec Soth's prototype of Sleeping By the Mississippi. . . it was a dream.

When Jess and I were speaking about how fortunate she is to be able to work with these images and view them daily, she said something that struck me.  She said that just knowing an image and loving it is different than living with it every day.  That when you get to see a photograph that speaks to you hundreds of times, it becomes part of you and the connection becomes intrinsic.  (I'm paraphrasing.)

That is why collecting is so amazing.  You get to interact with an image you love on a daily basis, and it seeps into your soul.  That may sound mushy and overly-romantic, but hey, I'm driving a bus around the country to talk about collecting, I'm pretty mushy about it.  You should be too.  Art is awesome.