Oak Park resident Jon Fjortoft, a self-taught photographer, has his artwork on display in an exhibit in the Forest Park National Bank, 7348 Madison, sponsored by the Oak Park Area Arts Council, until Feb. 28.

The exhibit includes 14 photos of street scenes and portraits of pedestrians in downtown Chicago and is a combination of color and black-and-white photography.

Fjortoft likes to capture in his art the dramatic lighting effects and small instances of wry humor and visual irony that one can see in bustling urban locations. His photographs are often candid shots that show people humorously juxtaposed with signs and advertisements, or portraits of people with what Fjortoft describes as fascinating appearances.

“My bread and butter is public spaces,” Fjortoft said. “That’s really what interests me: what people look like in that environment, photographed. Big, busy downtowns kind of supply the most creativity in that way.”

The photographer was born in Oak Park and has always stayed close to the urban environments in and around Chicago.

He began to explore photography ten years ago, originally using black and white film and eventually moving to digital photography when he began to work with color. 

“I don’t like sitting in front of a computer that much,” he said. “It’s kind of fatiguing for me, so in that sense I miss the darkroom.”

Fjortoft joined the Oak Park Area Arts Council shortly after beginning to train himself in photography. His work has been displayed at several shows in different galleries sponsored by the council through the years.

The arts council has been displaying the artwork of its members in the Forest Park National Bank for over 11 years, according to Charity Piet-Miska, assistant to the council’s executive director. The arts council operates gallery space in several other locations in the area, including the Oak Park Village Hall, William B. Sullivan Realty, and a new space in the Oak Park Regional Housing Center.

Local artists can contact the arts council to schedule exhibits. Space is offered primarily on a first-come-first-served basis and the galleries are booked solid through the end of 2011.

Fjortoft’s most recent exhibit was displayed in the Chicago Cultural Center last spring. The show displayed 40 photos composed of a combination of Chicago street photography and a series looking at small manufacturing plants in Chicago’s suburbs.  He hopes to use his photography to develop books of his work.