A brick building – offset by a scramble of trees and vines – rests along the side of Kedzie Avenue. Inside the building, a man dressed in a white vintage t-shirt and black basketball shorts sits on a rolling office chair, the fingers of his right hand casually clicking between different computer screens and websites.
On one screen, his SoundCloud page is pulled up, a chill, soulful mix playing quietly in the background. He leans back in his chair and grabs a stack of rolling papers and a tobacco grinder from the table behind him. Sitting back upright, he sips on a freshly poured mug of coffee – he takes his with milk and sugar – and begins to roll a joint.
The man in the chair is none other than Evan Brown, one of Chicago’s most eccentric and successful young creatives. Evan is often referred to as a professional photographer, although he does not see himself as such. He’s against labeling himself because to him, labeling leads to limits in his endeavors within the creative community.
At only 28-years old, Evan Brown exceeds all odds when it comes to producing media content. Not only does he photograph events, people and places, but also is a part of the founding team behind an online tech and media company, Ear2Ground (ear2ground.tv).
“There’s this ancient Chinese tale,” Brown said, his eyes smiling along with his mouth. “The Chinese would bury drums beneath the ground, and listen for oncoming activity by putting their ears to the ground. So that’s like, our mantra. Our ears are to the streets, to the ground… we’re always tuned in, always in the know.”
Ear2Ground only just launched in April of this year, but has been in the works for about three and a half years, according to Brown. One of his best friends, Chris Lindsey, is the “brain child” behind the operation. He’s the tech man, the brains behind that cheeky Chinese fable name, the whole thing.
“I met [Chris] while working at a gay bar in Boystown,” Brown said, reflecting on one of his first gigs as a club photographer in the Chicago neighborhood known mostly for its LGBTQ+ residents. “He recruited me on the spot… he saw my potential. And we vibed on a personal level. He’s the reason I’m here… I moved here to start [Ear2Ground] with [him].”
Although Evan has only been a resident of Chicago for about two years now, he has been on a whirlwind of adventures and has encountered endless opportunities since the day he moved in.
“I was living at home, in the Urbana, Springfield area, and I was coming up to Chicago four, five times a month for photography jobs,” he said.
“Finally, I moved up, and that was the best decision I’ve ever made. It’s a whole new world. Chicago is a crazy, crazy place. I love it so much.”
Since his arrival, Evan’s life has continued to move and change at a rapid pace. As a creative in 2017 – especially one so deeply involved in the digital world – Brown has to be three steps ahead of everyone at all times. And he is. And, somehow, he still manages to just do what he does best while he works: have fun.
Although Brown continues to take on different jobs from a multitude of clients, he has finally reached a conclusion on what photography means to him at this point in his career.
“I just like taking pictures of my friends,” he said. “And that’s it.”
Brown has moved onto video work, as he sees it as a better way to share his visions and concepts with others. Video has, according to Brown, “taken over [his] life.” So much so, in fact, that Brown is currently in the process of working on his first-ever short film. However, details on it are pretty hush-hush at this point.
The video work Evan does that is currently available to the public eye and ear is just as dope – he records events: shows, festivals, speeches, readings, parties, concerts. He also specializes in profiling artists and creatives that he knows and/or admires. He said he has a list of over three-hundred different creatives in the city of Chicago alone that he wants to interview and profile through
To Brown, it’s kind of crazy how quickly his life has moved since he got involved in the world of imagery and media. Although he clearly has proven his talent and capability in that world, it’s actually not even his greatest passion.
Photography isn’t everything to Evan Brown. People are.
Brown refers to himself as an overall people person, and even said he has more interest in subjects like sociology, psychology and anthropology more so than in photography. He enjoys learning about people; he enjoys engaging with people, and most of all, he said, he enjoys teaching people.
And that is what he wants to do for the rest of his life.
Brown is passionate about people and helping them learn and grow. When he first got involved in photography, he taught photo classes at an alternative school in his hometown. Now that he is living in the city, he’s in the process of getting involved with Chicago Public Schools volunteer programs. He wants to teach in a way that inspires people to grow and learn more about themselves, as well as their passions.
When one is passionate about something, one is experiencing strong feelings. Brown wants to teach people how to be passionate about the things that make them happy, that make them light – rather than the things that create anger and negativity. He is sure our purpose on this Earth is to leave it better than it was when we received it, and he plans on doing so by spreading positivity.
“Over everything, I want to be happy,” Brown said, after a long, overdrawn pause. “And I am starting to understand how.”