By Angela Gagnon
Locals and visitors alike flock to Cloud Gate, affectionately known as the Chicago Bean to get up close and personal with the spectacular piece of art that is practically synonymous with the city of Chicago. The sculpture, created by British artist Anish Kapoor, has become an immensely popular backdrop for photographs since its installment in 2006.
For one local woman, The Bean has become much more than just a place to hone her photography skills. Five years ago, native Chicagoan Susan May Romano began taking walks from her Loop office where she works as a legal assistant, to Millennium Park during her lunch break.
With camera in hand, she snaps photos along the way and posted them to her Facebook page. One day she stopped at The Bean and casually asked a group of people if they would “jump” for her. Since then, May Romano has taken thousands of photos and collected just as many stories from the people she has met on this unique artistic journey.
“As a photographer, I love shadows and
reflections and wanted to see how it would
look if I shot from a crouched position on
the sunny side of the Bean,” May Romano
said. The photos are uploaded to Facebook
and Twitter so people can view them, save
them or share them at no cost.
The collection of stunning “jumping at the Bean” photos is only part of what makes May Romano’s photography so appealing. The stories behind the people in her photos have not only enhanced the extraordinary visuals, but also personally connected May Romano to the people she photographs.
In 2015 May Romano met U.S. Border Patrol Agent Michael Barrow from New Mexico who was in Chicago for a stem cell transplant at Northwestern Hospital in an effort to cure his Multiple Sclerosis. May Romano recalls getting chills when she heard this, because she herself had been a stem cell transplant patient. It seemed fate had connected the two.
“It’s great running into such positive people who genuinely care about how you’re doing and that want to see you overcome the odds and beat a disease. It gives me hope in humanity,” said Barrow, who came back to jump for May Romano a second time after being released from the hospital. The two continue to stay in touch and May Romano said Barrow is doing well, working full time and enjoying time with his family.
On a sunny day in May, May Romano was out shooting when she met some recent graduates of Penn State, who were on a road trip to Colorado. “We were approached by this lady in a flower dress,” said Derek Barnett, originally from Texas.
When asked if they wanted to jump, Barnett replied, “We’re adventurous, so yes!”
After capturing a perfect synchronized photo of the four in midair, May Romano proceeded to offer the group helpful advice about what they might do next in Chica- go. They were all ears, smiling and nodding at her heartfelt and knowledgeable suggestions.
Yet another example is Marcia Brink from Kingston, Illinois, who came to Chicago in September of 2014 to spend time with high school friends, one of whom had recently been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. The group met May Romano while visiting the Bean and jumped for her. Upon returning home, Brink realized how precious those photos were, since it would probably be the last time she saw her friend, who lost her battle to cancer less than four months later. “Her survival story, zest for life, whimsical rhymes, passion for photography and cookie baking too, just made me want to get to know this woman,” Brink said of May Romano.
“I have always believed people enter our lives for a reason, and Susan May Romano has entered mine to remind me to capture the little moments and cherish them forever.”
May Romano describes her “Jumping at The Bean” photography as a healing hobby. “It’s my passion and l love my city.” She has met people from all over the world, whose jumping styles are as unique as their stories. “This is part of what fills me up in life,” she said. “This is all gravy.”
On sunny days, you can find May Romano shooting her famous jumping shots on the south side of The Bean during her lunch hour. For more information on her work and to see her photos, visit her Facebook Page “Jumping at The Bean” or follow her on Twitter @jumpingatthebean.
Published June 5, 2018