Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:40 pm
Only seven years into “retirement,” Jack MacDonough already has made another name and identity for himself. The former chief executive officer of Milwaukee-based Miller Brewing Co. is becoming one of Wisconsin’s most in-demand photographers. And it happened almost by accident.
MacDonough was fired by Miller in 1999 and soon afterward began to study his passion for photography more closely, taking pictures of buildings, people and landscapes near his home in Chenequa.
“I have always been a photographer,” MacDonough said.
With new time on his hands, MacDonough started off with a few projects, including photographing the ministry staff at his church, Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Technology and Trade School in Milwaukee (he is chairman of the foundation that created the school).
As neighbors saw him out and about with his camera, they asked him to take photos of their estates, and he soon built a portfolio of landscape photos, some of which he sold to Living on the Lake magazine.
In effect, his work became a brand in Lake Country, where friends began commissioning him to take photos, paying thousands of dollars to throw back their shoulders and proclaim, “It’s a MacDonough.”
In 2003, MacDonough was commissioned by the Milwaukee Art Museum to take photographs of the exhibit, “Industrial Strength Design: How Brooks Stevens Shaped Your World.” His photos are still available in the museum gift shop.
“In the business world, I was working with a lot of creative people, and I appreciated those challenges, but it is fun to combine creativity and technical skill into something that is pleasing to others,” MacDonough said.
Since the Brooks Stevens exhibit, MacDonough has launched himself into the corporate art world with art consultant Sally Stevens, owner of Milwaukee-based Sally Stevens Ltd. and daughter-in-law of Brooks Stevens.
His latest corporate project is a 6-foot by 7-foot installation in the reception area of the We Energies campus on Michigan Street in downtown Milwaukee. The installation is a series of images that MacDonough captured in a moving wing study he conducted on the Calatrava addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum. The entire collection can be viewed at MacDonough’s Web site: jackmacdonough.smugmug.com.
As an art consultant, Stevens is retained by corporations to work with architects, interior designers and facility managers to come up with the theme, look and feel of the interior of a corporate building, she said.
“I was working with We Energies, trying to come up with something forward-thinking. And when I think of forward-thinking right now, I think of the Calatrava,” said Stevens, who worked in the corporate art program at the Milwaukee Art Museum about 20 years ago.
Stevens sought out MacDonough for photography ideas, and he came up with the concept of using stop-action to portray the Calatrava in a new light to viewers.
MacDonough used an architectural lens to prevent curvature of the wings in the photograph. MacDonough snapped the photos, using his unique outlook on life as his artistic guide.
“I am trying to show a perspective that people don’t normally see,” MacDonough said.
MacDonough often uploads his digital photographs onto his computer and changes the image tones from color to black and white or sepia to evoke different emotions about the inanimate subjects.
“Architecture is especially fun, because at one point in my life I wanted to be an architect. I respect the skill of it. Landscape is fun because it is God’s creation,” MacDonough said. “The architecture of God gave man the reasoning mind to do the architecture. In both ways, (my photography) is sort of a celebration of God’s work, not man’s work.”
MacDonough is working with Stevens on three more projects.
Some of his work is on public display as a gift at Bradley Tech, and he has completed multiple commissions for The Bradley Foundation and the Greater Milwaukee Committee.
He also shot photos of the new GE Healthcare facility in the Milwaukee County Research Park for Irgens Development Partners.
MacDonough sells his prints for between $800 and $12,000, depending on size.
He contributes some of the profits back to the Bradley Tech Foundation and toward photography programs at the Milwaukee Art Museum.
“I think he has a God-given gift,” Stevens said. “It goes back to basic design and line form, how he combines that in his photographs to make them look as crisp and clear as they do.”
MacDonough shoots for a common underlying theme in both his landscape and architectural photographs.
“I try to have a style and want to capture smoke and mirrors and time lapse,” MacDonough said. “Either seasons passing where I am photographing the same image over time or the image perception changes because I am changing what you see to black and white or moving. You react to the variation.”
The message he wants to get across is simple.
“My hope is that people pay more visual attention to their world,” MacDonough said. “Just as they can pay attention to how I took a photograph, I hope to inspire people to look at the world in a different way. I am trying to reach out, take them outside of themselves and closer to God.”