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Photos: Meet The Photographer Obsessed With Chicago's Iconic Brick Walls

By Rachel Cromidas in Arts & Entertainment on May 5, 2017 8:52PM

If you swoon for a good exposed brick wall (and even better if that wall is made of classic, pinkish Chicago common brick), then you're going to love this Instagram: Brick of Chicago is devoted to documenting the gorgeous brick walls to be seen in and around Chicago's neighborhoods and the many different bricklaying patterns they represent, if you stop and look closely.

The photos comes courtesy of Will Quam, a 25-year-old photographer who began chronicling the bricks he saw on his walks around his neighborhood, Andersonville, last summer.

Quam, a theater teacher by day, said he was inspired by On Looking, a book by Alexandra Horowitz that advocates paying attention to the world around you with the eye of an expert in a number of different fields. Quam tried approaching Chicago with a bricklayer's eye, and the habit stuck after he noticed all the variation from wall to wall.

"When most people think about brick, they think of a red wall of brick. But the more I paid attention, the more I saw green brick, purples, yellows, oranges, greys, silver. And they're all laid out in a myriad of different ways and orientations. Quam told Chicagoist. He learned that various brick patterns each had historical roots and specific, structural purposes. For example, one of the most common patterns in Chicago is the Scottish bond, which features five rows of long bricks, called stretchers, alternated with one row of short bricks called headers.

"Once I started learning about different types of brick bonds, I felt like I learned a new language, and all these hidden texts were surrounding me," he said.

Quam's personal favorite is the monk bond, which features a pattern of two long bricks and one short brick, repeated. He recently joined the International Brick Collectors Association to learn more about brick types, styles and history. His collection is just four bricks right now ("I live in an apartment. To collect more would be absurd," he said) but he's fascinated to learn about the specificity of other peoples' collections.

"There are people who only collect pavers from Ohio," he said.

Right now, most of Quam's photos are from his block and neighborhood on the Far North Side, but he's begun branching out around the city. He says some of the best photos come from Chicago Public School buildings, and from places you might not expect.

"A lot of them are simple structures that are made much more interesting by the brick," he said. "They are mostly seemingly unremarkable buildings, but to me are really special."

In addition to the Instagram, Quam runs the site Brick of Chicago, where he writes about the history of Chicago bricks and sells photographic prints. He says the reception from friends and others who find his work has been positive, though some friends were skeptical at first.

"A lot of my friends thought I was joking, but I've always been incredibly sincere about it," he said. "Now I have friends who come out of the woodwork and send me pictures of brick walls. I get sent maybe two or three brick pics a day."

36 bricks for my 400th post! Here's something I wrote when I first started taking pictures of brick: "I was asked yesterday why brick and why all the pictures. The story is: I read a book called On Looking, where the author (Alexandra Horowitz) takes a dozen or so walks around her neighborhood with "expert eyes" - experts in geology, typography, her five-year-old, a physical therapist, etc. and tries to see what they see. The experience opened her eyes to the world around her and opened my eyes to the details around me. One thing I really like is brick and the history and variety of it. It's everywhere and so varied in color and shape and placement and style. So I decided to document it to encourage myself and others to pay closer attention to the little details and patterns around us. I hope I've succeeded." Happy brick, everyone! . . . . . . . . . #chicago #architecture #chicagoarchitecture #brick #bricks #masonry #bricklove #streetphotography #structure #architecturephotography #infrastructure #civilengineering #designseeds #seedscolor #ihaveathingforwalls #becauseilikebricks #brickisbeautiful #pattern #patterns #collage #collageart #400

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