Chicago 2020, October: Photographs & Text by Ryan Bakerink

Chicago 2020, Lip Sync To A Car Crash, Asbury Park, NJ | ©Ryan Bakerink

Esthetic Lens is happy to bring you the October installment of Ryan Bakerink’s monthly photography series, Chicago 2020. The genesis of the project came about as Bakerink entered his twentieth year of living in Chicago, having moved to the city at the age of twenty.  Ryan has traveled and photographed on six continents, in forty countries, but had never focused his photographic work on the expansive city that he lives in. In October of 2020, Ryan hit the road to photographically explore other parts of the country, outside the liberal-leaning bubble of Chicago. What resulted is a project within a project, Lip Sync To A Car Crash.


Chicago 2020, Lip Sync To A Car Crash, Cresson, PA | ©Ryan Bakerink

In October 2020, our nation was experiencing the collision of a global pandemic, an economic collapse, social injustice, and an upcoming, extremely divisive election. 


Chicago 2020, Lip Sync To A Car Crash, Munster, PA | ©Ryan Bakerink

As I was spending my year documenting Chicago, tensions were peaking around the country. What I was experiencing all year throughout Chicago was happening across the country, I felt it was essential to examine this unique moment in our country’s history by expanding the work beyond Chicago.  Like most major American cities, Chicago is exceptionally liberal, and as a result, the work has an inherently liberal bias.  I took a 3-week hiatus from my Chicago 2020 project. I drove through 12 states, exploring both rural and urban areas to document a more comprehensive view of our nation at the peak of what might be the most controversial and tense times in my lifetime.


Chicago 2020, Lip Sync To A Car Crash, Harman, WV | ©Ryan Bakerink

This body of work, titled Lip Sync to a Car Crash, exists as a sister project to (or separate project within) my Chicago 2020 work and includes images that are a bit more metaphorical.  Like a car crash, this combined tension of the pandemic, an economic collapse, and social injustice was hard to look away from; whether it be in the media or person, however, these scenes were so common and familiar, it was almost as if you could lip sync to what you saw across the country.


Chicago 2020, Lip Sync To A Car Crash, Cape May, NJ | ©Ryan Bakerink

Chicago 2020, Lip Sync To A Car Crash, Sea Side Heights, NJ | ©Ryan Bakerink

Chicago 2020 is a body of work about one city with complicated subjects layered within it, where “Lip Sync to a Car Crash” is the opposite. In this project, I set out to precisely capture these scenes and layers across the country. My goal was to photograph, literally or metaphorically the following:

  • Politics
  • Social injustice / Racism
  • Covid-19
  • Economic Hardship
  • Climate Change

Chicago 2020, Lip Sync To A Car Crash, Pittsburgh, PA | ©Ryan Bakerink

Chicago 2020, Lip Sync To A Car Crash, Danville, PA #1 | ©Ryan Bakerink

I set out with a hunch that these scenes existed across America, and as I predicted, they were unavoidable. 


Chicago 2020, Lip Sync To A Car Crash, Berkley, NJ | ©Ryan Bakerink

Chicago 2020, Lip Sync To A Car Crash, Danville, PA #2 | ©Ryan Bakerink

I had no set plan other than a starting point and an ending point each day. During the 5,000-mile road trip, I took detours, wrong turns, followed my intuition, and at every turn, stumbled across images that portrayed this particular time in American History.  This trip was one of the more humbling experiences I’ve had in my life; creating more politically equitable work challenged my point of view.


Chicago 2020, Lip Sync To A Car Crash, Buckhannon, WV | ©Ryan Bakerink

Chicago 2020, Lip Sync To A Car Crash, Nashville, TN | ©Ryan Bakerink

I took a gamble on this trip, and it turned out to be the perfect time to tackle a side project such as this. Having been mentally, physically, and emotionally wrapped up in Chicago for nine months, this trip allowed me to take a step back and think about the year and Chicago. My goal is to publish Lip Sync To A Car Crash as a book, a sister project to Chicago 2020, and possibly have a limited edition where the two are packaged together.


Chicago 2020, Lip Sync To A Car Crash, Jeanette, NJ | ©Ryan Bakerink

Chicago 2020, Lip Sync To A Car Crash, Brownsville, PA | ©Ryan Bakerink

Ryan Bakerink is a photographer in Chicago, IL, his work focuses on social issues, counterculture, travel, music, and portraiture.  Ryan’s work can regularly be seen throughout the music industry, has been widely exhibited, and was recently featured on CBS Sunday Morning with Jane Pauly.


Ryan Bakerink Self-Portrait | ©Ryan Bakerink

Ryan Bakerink can be found online at his Website and on Instagram.

His Chicago2020 site can be found here.