The Changing Chicago project commissioned 33 photographers to document different characteristics of their city in the late 1980′s. It was timed to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the discovery of photography and the 50th anniversary of the Farm Security Administration (FSA) documentary project. The FSA project was an iconic moment in America photographic history which resulted in many of the famous photographs of the depression era by (among others) Dorothea Lang and Walker Evans.
The Changing Chicago project could be viewed as a descendant of the famous FSA project. It was initiated and funded by Jack Jaffe. He was an unlikely patron, but after selling his successful car repair business he devoted time and resources to his passion: photography. His enthused all the Chicago area Museums to become involved and the final 33 photographers were selected for their artistry – and many who were already involved in long-term, Chicago area photo projects.
Sister Maxima and ‘Wheel of Fortune,’ Frankfort, 1988 © Lloyd De Grane
At Backyard, we feel incredibly privileged that the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago (MoCP) has granted us permission to reproduce over 100 photographs from the Changing Chicago project. This landmark piece of work represents Chicago and the mid-western USA at a specific moment in its history.
Mark Burton (centre) with students from Crane High School – Hope Staten, Christopher Askew, Mark, Belinda Robinson, Lynda Day (1988)
By coincidence I visited Chicago in 1987 and 1988, spending time at Oak Park and River Forest High School and Crane High School. I wish I could have returned home to England with a portfolio of Changing Chicago photographs. These, instead of my early attempts at photography, could have communicated to my friends and family Chicago’s amazing dynamism, diversity, creativity and it’s many contrasts.
Obama – Alleyball, 1995 © Marc PoKempner
We are also very excited to publish a mini-retrospective by one of the original Changing Chicago photographers, Marc PoKempner. His gallery of images will take you on a tour of South Side Blues clubs, the Cabrini Green Housing Project and significant moments in the political careers of Mayor Harold Washington and President Barack Obama.
To complement the Changing Chicago work we are also delighted to publish highlights from an analogous project called the London Villages Project, which was completed by members of London Independent Photography in 2012.
This issue of Backyard has been made possible by the goodwill and generosity of Jonathan Kinkley at the MoCP and John Levitt, the initiator of the London Villages project.
Curator, Mark Burton
Curatorial Assistant, Dmitro Khroma
Special thanks to Nadiya and Alex at Tokarska Gallery, Jill, Kaley and Melanie at WPO and Chastity and Kristin at MoCP.
Acclaimed independent photojournalist Marc PoKempner has called Chicago home for over 40 years. This mini-retrospective includes highlights from several projects focussed on culture and politics in it’s vibrant African-American community. His work has taken him and camera to smoky neighbourhood Blues Clubs, outdoor flea markets, public housing projects and City Hall. He’s shot Mums and Dads raising families, musicians and bartenders, factory workers and the future President of the United States. What each project has in common is Marc’s ability to spot a story and build trusting relationships with all manner of different people.
Simone Fisher’s London Villages Project documented commuters and workers in the City of London. It also tells the story of a personal journey of creative discovery, world travels and a determined recovery from a life-changing accident.
The London Villages Project ran for a year from March 2011 – February 2012. It was completed by members of London Independent Photography who investigated and documented their immediate neighbourhood and community – or as they conceptualised them, their own ‘London Villages.’
Highlights from the Changing Chicago Project featuring Stephen Marc, Melissa Ann Pinney, Antonia Perez, James Iska, James Iska and Richard Younker.
Highlights from the Changing Chicago Project featuring Tom Hocker, Dick Blau, Peter Hales, Kerry Coppin and David Dapogny.
Highlights from the Changing Chicago Project featuring Jay Boersma, Barbara Ciurej-Lindsay Lochman, Patty Carroll, Bob Thall and Rhondal McKinney.
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