Arlington Heights teen photographer wants you to go and explore

Arlington Heights teen photographer wants to inspire people to go out and explore the world

A few years ago, the only photographs 17-year-old Jack Gillespie had ever taken were on his parents' iPhones.

Now, the John Hersey High School senior owns his own gear, captures images for companies such as Skydeck Chicago, Navy Pier and Wendella Boat Tours, and has almost 15,000 followers on his photography-based Instagram account,

Gillespie discovered his passion for photography after receiving a DSLR camera as a gift toward the beginning of high school. He soon began capturing photos of his surroundings, even when that meant using his pets as models and placing coins around his house to practice angles.

"I shot everything I could at first," he said. "I practiced shooting landscapes, portraits, minimalism. I would take photos of everything because I knew I needed the practice."

Most of Gillespie's current work involves Chicago architecture. Cityscape photography has become a fundamental part of what makes his work recognizable, he said.

To capture overhead views of the city, Gillespie often shoots photos from rooftops. He also takes promotional photos for Vertiport Chicago VIP Helicopter Tours during tours.

"He's really great to work with," Vertiport Tour Manager Aylah Cadrera said. "His photos always look great. If you look at them, you can tell that they're all unique."

This is the result of Gillespie's wide range of inspiration. He decides what to capture by observing his surroundings, completing research online and speaking with other photographers. Each time he has an idea, he writes it down - he currently has more than 500 notes about photography locations and angles on his phone, he said.

"There's always something different catching my eye," he said. "I try to go to as many different places and parts of the city as I can."

Gillespie uses a Canon EOS 6D Mark II camera to capture photos. He then imports them onto his phone and edits them using Lightroom. But location can be just as important as gear.

Living near Chicago is a huge advantage for photographers, he said. In addition to its large population, it has a variety of architectural structures. This offers opportunities for many types of photography.

"Chicago has so much to offer culturally, physically and in every aspect," he said. "I feel like some people don't appreciate living in such close proximity to it."

Gillespie recently traveled to Ecuador with the U.S. State Department to complete volunteer services. He travels frequently, and he said his passion for photography came from his desire to visit new places and explore old ones. He hopes to inspire this desire in others.

"I want to inspire viewers to get out and go somewhere," he said. "That's the most important thing I'd like them to take away from my work."

Cadrera said that Gillespie's photos can inspire others to get involved in photography and exploration.

"He's doing what he loves, and including others into the photography world - even people who don't necessarily take photos themselves," Cadrera said. "His photos are authentic, and I think that's what makes it so great."

Jack Gillespie captures a spray of colors during a Navy Pier fireworks display while on a boat tour. Courtesy of Jack Gillespie
Jack Gillespie captures Chicago high-rises from a helicopter. The 17-year-old Arlington Heights resident takes promotional photos for Vertiport Chicago VIP Helicopter Tours during tours. Courtesy of Jack Gillespie
Jack Gillespie snaps this Chicago sunrise with a Canon EOS 6D Mark ll camera. Courtesy of Jack Gillespie
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