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Fashion photographer Victor Skrebneski shares his favorite Chicago memories

The pioneering fashion photographer remembers his first run-in with art.

Photograph: Barry Brecheisen/WireImag
Victor Skrebneski (right) and Jason Binn attend the Michigan Avenue Magazine Launch Party at The James Hotel on September 20, 2008.

Skrebneski, the cutting-edge fashion photographer best known for his 25-year collaboration with Estée Lauder, was an art-curious kid, growing up in a Polish and Russian household in the Near North neighborhood. Since then, the Art Institute grad, 81, has photographed everyone from Audrey Hepburn to Orson Welles. Skrebneski, who now lives in Old Town and still works out of his eponymous LaSalle Street studio, writes about his first encounters with art:

One-hundred years ago when I was only six years old and lived in my parents’ house on the corner of Grand Avenue and Rush, I remember my first experience with art. The art was behind the bar at Riccardo’s Restaurant at the south end of Rush Street. I remember that the paintings were about seven feet tall, all by different artists, including Ivan Albright’s horrific Picture of Dorian Gray. More paintings by Riccardo were everywhere, including on the ceiling. Fascinating place. Art was everywhere. I was always looking up at art.

My father would take my sister Jennie and me for a walk every other night in the summer. The walk was on Michigan Avenue from Grand Avenue north to Oak Street. Architecture was astounding. The giant stone reliefs high up on the buildings, the Tribune Tower, all of the storefronts showing their quality details. The Water Tower and the pumping station looked like palaces. And, finally, the Palmolive Building and the Drake: The Palmolive with the brightest beam of light shooting straight up to the sky! My favorite building—still is. From there we walked to the playground on Pearson and Lake Shore Drive. Walking home, we would walk on the west side of Michigan Avenue. I saw everything! The playground is where I found a black box that turned out to be a camera. Little did I know that Michigan Avenue would lead me to a camera from which I would still see everything…and I am still looking.

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