art:. Tom Callahan & Rene Marban, Metropolis Coffee, Chicago, Illinois

Appearances show that they are a lot of the same; Chicagoans, graffiti artists, young men and photographers.

While all of the above is true, its how they see, whats the same, that is different.

Here’s a look at the city storytellers – Tom Callahan and René Marban.

smdlr: From the moment I saw one of your videos – Joe Smokes –  I just knew that I had to interview you about it and your photography exhibit at Metropolis Coffee . Lets get started, tell me about your relationship to the coffee shop.

Tom Callahan: Both of us are from around the area – Edgewater and the North side of Chicago. A friend, John, told me about the shop. I went in a few times and I liked it. He told me to see about getting some up art up and that’s kind of how it started.

René Marban: Pretty much the same. I drink a lot of coffee and I realized they needed art, so I was pretty excited about it.  We’re graffiti artists and a lot of what we do comes from that – rooftops, climbing them, being on them. Up there, you have different a view and outlook of the world.

Tom: I like being on rooftops too, but Rene would drag me to places and say, “lets go on rooftops, lets jump on this building and train.” I’m happy that he does that and I do like it. I enjoy the aspects of the video, that rooftop and the people up there a lot of time.

Rene: The other aspect was getting footage of the train; we have a close relationship to the train. I ride the train everyday and I try to be creative on the train.  The service is horrible, but it still has a lot of beauty to it and seeing what happens outside. I try to capture it in someway, and an important part of what I do on a daily basis, that’s what is in the video.

s: I would like to learn more about the video and Joe Smokes.  Can you share more about who he is?

Tom:  Its about our friends father, his name was Joe. We’d go visit him and talk to him.  He liked to watch the videos I made and so I said I’ll put you in one. And, one day, we went to the rooftop and started filming.

s: Did themes of the film naturally come into play with the actual exhibit too?

Tom: I’ve been doing more videography work than photography. But

Rene: A huge variety of my work is strictly Chicago stuff – trains, people, random street shots and some conceptual things. Some photos are from different places like northern Illinois, Milwaukee and Wisconsin.

s: With so much to pull from, was there something that helped you curate the pieces for the exhibition.

Rene: It was definitely hard to choose, but we had a theme and we wanted to include the story of Chicago, public transportation and random street photos.

Tom:  For me personally, choosing was easy somewhat, because I had a lot of pieces ready but it was a challenge too, because when you put it up in a setting like a coffee shop, you want to show people something that shows the kind of artist you are and what you’re about.  There’s also balancing the economic opportunity to get something sold, Rene helped me push more in the direction of doing what I really wanted and if people feel lit, then cool.

s: Cool indeed! I believe art is created first for oneself and then for others. We are desirous of expressing something, so we do, then we push it out to the world. So, now that you are bona-fide exhibitors, what do you think having an opportunity like this for your work does for coffee culture?

Rene: You can get around more, more than like on Facebook. Different people come, lots of hipster kids, college kids that go to coffee shops. It gives us, and art an exposure, instead of just throwing it up far into a suburb.

s: So true, Twitter is how I reached you, and its just one reason I love it as a platform, for being able to facilitate discoveries like these. .

Tom: I think it’s a mixed bag with coffee and art. I’m cautious and skeptical sometimes. But. I think it can be really powerful if the coffee shop links us and have some kind of true connection with the community that they are in and when they make their mission to be in touch with the stuff that is going with the community and people in general.

s: What is it that allowed you to be connected to Metropolis?

Rene: Metropolis is in between both of our neighborhoods.  I grew up in Uptown and now I live in the suburbs.  Tom lives in Rogers Park.

Tom: Location is a big factor. It’s an opportunity for people who see what I see and to show them things. A lot of coffee shops slap photos on the wall, but Metropolis gave us a space, they gave us an opportunity to make something stronger and that’s what we’re trying to do.

For more of Mr. Callahan’s work online visit here and here.

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