The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Millennium Park Photography: The Official Scoop

By Andrew Peerless in News on Feb 17, 2005 5:15PM

Photo courtesy of
Okay, let’s get to the bottom of this already. Chicagoist told you all about Millennium Park’s controversial photography ban last week, and even crafted Project Runway-worthy designer duds to commemorate the occasion, but the time has come to set the record straight. Chicagoist had a lengthy e-conversation with Karen Ryan, the friendly gem of the City’s communications department, and can now officially fill your brains with the truth about Millennium Park photography.

We’ll make this as simple as possible: there are two issues at stake, that of City-mandated photography permits and that of copyrighted public structures/artwork.

The Permits: Before Millennium Park opened, the City decided to follow the lead of other “popular, well-traveled parks” around the country and require professional and student photographers to obtain photography permits ($350 for professionals, free for students). The intentions of this move were primarily to keep park officials informed of photo shoots planned for the premises (so you don’t have twelve bridal parties trying to take bean photos at the same moment), and in turn address traffic and safety issues to the best of their abilities.

Millennium Park security guards were told to look for “sophisticated equipment and/or tripods as an indication that a photographer might be a professional.” And this is where the confusion seems to have begun. The guards, when stumbling upon such professional-looking folk, should have simply asked the photographer if they were a professional and, if the answer was “yes,” directed them to the permit office. However, as just about every Web site in the Chicagoland area reported last week, some of them just plain kicked the photographers out with claims of copyrighted public works.

In light of this conduct, community concerns and an “increased understanding of how the public uses the space (including photographers),” the city has recognized the need to re-evaluate these policies. While they do so, they have stopped enforcing the permit requirement, and are focusing on improving their security guard training to ensure both complete understanding of the rules and better communication between guards and the public. City, Chicagoist appreciates your effort to get this situation resolved.

And now, let’s move on…

The Copyrights: Now that we all understand the permit issue (right?), the copyright issue almost falls by the wayside. The City of Chicago neither grants nor enforces copyrights, which exist solely between the creators of the works and the secondary publisher. Essentially, anyone that’s allowed to take photographs in Millennium Park (as stated above, for now, anyone can take photos without a permit) can take pictures of whatever they want. The copyright issue doesn’t pop up until said photographers attempt to publish images of the copyrighted works without the consent of the artists. If you are a photographer that wishes to publish an image of Cloud Gate (the bean), Pritzker Pavilion, BP Bridge, the Lurie Garden or Crown Fountain, the City urges you to contact the following representatives:

-Cloud Gate (Copyright owned by Anish Kapoor; For permissions, contact: Adamottavi Schiesl or Micah Hussey at 212.206.9300)

-The Crown Fountain (Copyright owned by Jaume Plensa; For permissions, contact Erin Bakunas at 312.642.8877)

-Lurie Garden (Copyright owned by Gustafson & Associates; For permissions, contact Jennifer Guthrie at 206.903.6802)

-Jay Pritzker Pavilion and BP Bridge (Copyright owned by Frank Gehry; For permissions, contact Keith Mendenhall at 310.482.3000)

Let’s recap: We can all take pictures in Millennium Park, and for the time being, professional photographers and student photographers don't even need a permit. The “enhancements” in Millennium Park are copyrighted, so we’ll keep that in mind if we are a photographer who wishes to publish images of said works.

Whew! Now that we’re all clear… get your shiny bean shirts now! They’re soon to be a collector’s item!

Photo courtesy of