Paul Octavious: Thrill of the hill

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The Independent Culture

A field of swaying lavender in Provence; a hammock slung between two palm trees in the Caribbean – dream destinations for some, perhaps, but not the Chicago-based photographer Paul Octavious.

"I discovered this hill while getting to know my neighbourhood three years ago," explains the photographer, who moved to the Windy City in the winter of 2007. "It was just a mound of earth, with nothing but Lake Michigan on one side and a clutch of buildings on the other, but it became my dream place." So what made this gently undulating hillock more than the sum of its grass?

For Octavious, it is the people who throng across its flank every day. "When I found it, the first thing I saw were kids sledding about in the snow." The image of the frosted hilltop teaming with gleeful tots inspired him to incorporate the hill into his daily walks. And three years, 12 seasons and several thousand images later, Octavious has documented the changing face of a local landmark. "There's always something going on," he says. "It's like a stage and the nearby residents are the actors."

Springtime, for instance, sees crowds swarm the rise as the space is filled with a frenzy of wind-lashed kites; while on a summer night, the silhouettes of a group are illuminated by iridescent pyrotechnics as locals celebrate Independence Day. "We often look far and wide for beauty," muses Octavious, "but if you sit back, you can find it in the closest places and the most mundane of things."

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