Tag Archives: Chicago

Photographs from Another Year of Travel

Last year I compiled a list of representative photographs from many of the locations I visited in 2010. This year was similarly packed with travel, so I decided I should do it again, starting a year from when I made the last post. Nineteen U.S. metropolitan areas and Vancouver, Canada are represented, although there are a few other places I visited that I didn’t include.

A quick note about what you’ll see below: After I visit a place, I typically make a short blog post wherein I share a handful of favorite photographs from the visit. To make it easier to see those images, I’ve linked each city name to a post. Where there isn’t a post, I’ve linked the title to my full flickr set from the approximate place and labeled it with a “[f]”. You can click on any image to see a larger version of it on flickr.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Filling the Water Tank

Colonia residents fill their portable water tank from a new well on the Pajarito Mesa, southwest of Albuquerque. The 400 family community has no public utilities, including running water, electricity or direct access to school busing for children.

Baltimore, Maryland

Perlman Place, Before and After City-Initiated Demolition

The left image was made on the first day of the Perlman Place demolition on April 16, 2010, the right on November 19, 2011. The simplified backstory is after years of neighborhood decline, a developer decided he wanted to turn this block into upmarket, renovated row houses; however, he didn’t have enough financing to make it work. The result was a stalled project, leaving the block in the state it was when pictured in the 2010. In response, the city initiated demolition. There are no immediate plans to replace the demolished units with new housing. The remaining residents are pleased that there are fewer derelict buildings to mask criminal activity, but they are terribly sad to have lost the block.

Chicago, Illinois [f]

Lake Shore Drive in the Blizzard

Cars remained stranded in the snowdrifts on Lake Shore Drive as the blizzard gusted on the morning of February 2.

Cleveland, Ohio

No Road

A closed road on Cleveland’s East Side restricts vehicular traffic from one community to another.

Dallas, Texas

Elmers Drive-In, Downtown Dallas

This convenience store is one of a few retailers nestled between bail bondsmen and other lower rent businesses near the county’s criminal justice complex. Downtown Dallas rises in the background.

Dayton, Ohio [f]


A historic cemetery is crammed into a busy commercial strip in south suburban Dayton.

Detroit, Michigan [f]

West Fort Appliance (After the Neighbors Turned on Their Lights)

The locally-owned West Fort Appliance is illuminated by a neighboring building in the absence of functioning streetlights in this part of the city’s southwest side.

Indianapolis, Indiana [f]

Black Friday: Best Buy Line

Late Thanksgiving night, shoppers waited to take take advantage of discount prices at a Best Buy in an Indianapolis suburb. I walked the length of the parking lot just before midnight, photographing the line’s accumulation in front of four other big box store locations. Two of the four were occupied.

Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri

Railroad Tracks, Grain Elevator, Skyline

Railroad tracks branch out into no fewer than 22 lines before converging into Kansas City, Missouri.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Walking Home

A man walks home from work through his apartment complex on the near east side of Las Vegas.

Lubbock, Texas

Oil Pump at Night

An oil pump churns through the night on the eastern edge of Lubbock, Texas. Here is a short audio recording of how it sounded.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin [f]

Sitting on His Stoop

This man moved to Milwaukee eight years ago after living in Chicago for most of his life. Tired of living in Milwaukee, he is planning on moving to Minneapolis sometime soon.

New Orleans, Louisiana

Residential Buildings, Boys on Bicycle, Falstaff

Two boys ride a bike by a shotgun house marked for demolition on a short residential street. The former Falstaff Brewery is visible on the right side of the frame.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Awesome Books

One of many stores along the burgeoning Penn Avenue Arts District, Awesome Books sells a range of secondhand books.

San Diego, California

At Play

Children play in one of the many mobile home parks located along I-5 between San Diego and the U.S.-Mexico border.

Santa Fe, New Mexico [f]

Along the Highway

A painted billboard rests outside a derelict mall along I-25 between Santa Fe and Albuquerque.

Topeka, Kansas

Hanover Pancake House, McDonald's, Water Tower

Hanover Pancake House, which has served Topeka since 1969, is flanked by McDonald’s and a water tower during a February snowstorm.

Tushka, Oklahoma

Preparing the Chairs

Tushka High School students break down desks and other damaged materials following a tornado that destroyed much of the small Oklahoma town.

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Regent Hotel, Union Market, Hastings Street

Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is the location of a major redevelopment effort due to its high number of boarding houses and SROs, a few of which are seen here.

Washington, D.C. [f]

Occupy D.C., Freedom Plaza

The Occupy D.C. demonstrations are located on two sites: Freedom Plaza and McPherson Square. The Freedom Plaza encampment (seen above) is adjacent to the District of Columbia’s government building and within sight of the U.S. Capitol Building.

Occupy Everywhere

As I’ve been traveling in the last few weeks, I’ve visited Occupy Wall Street affiliated locations in six different cities: Baltimore, Maryland; Chicago, Illinois; Cleveland, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and both locations in Washington, D.C. Now that winter is approaching and Occupy locations are changing, I thought I should share a couple of photographs from each location.

I will add additional photographs here as I have occasion to visit new sites.


Tax the Rich

Arrests Begin at Occupy Chicago Demonstration in Grant Park

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – McKeldin Fountain Square

Occupy Baltimore

Occupy Baltimore in McKeldin Park

CLEVELAND, OHIO – With Occupy the Hood

Occupy the Hood/Occupy Cleveland

Occupy the Hood/Occupy Cleveland

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – Grand Circus Park

Occupy Detroit


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Freedom Plaza

Occupy D.C., Freedom Square
Occupy D.C., Freedom Square


With His Occupy Minneapolis Shirt

Occupy Milwaukee at Night

WASHINGTON, D.C. – McPherson Square

Occupy D.C., McPherson Square

Signs from Occupy D.C., McPherson Square

Photographing The Bloomingdale Trail

Boys Starting a Fight

Since 2009 I’ve been working on a series of photographs documenting the Bloomingdale Trail, a disused elevated rail line in Chicago that is on its way to becoming a linear park.

I won’t complete the project until at least sometime next year, but I will be contributing six of the photographs to a large group show at the end of the month. The show, “Reframing Ruin: a Prelude to the Bloomingdale Trail,” opens from 7pm-11pm on Friday, July 29 at the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival. (More details are available on facebook.) A diverse group of people is contributing to the event, and I’m looking forward to seeing the full exhibition.

I haven’t published many photographs from this project, so I’ve included few images from the ongoing series here.

Bloomingdale Trail Entrance



Abutting the Trail

Father and Son

The Bloomingdale Trail at Night

The United States Steel South Works

There’s been a renewed interest in the site of the former United States Steel South Works following Dave Matthews Band Caravan‘s use of the area. Thinking readers might enjoy a little history of the site, I’ve edited a few excerpts from my master’s thesis on the development (and decline) of the site and posted them here along with some supporting materials.

Development of USS South Works Site, 1869-2003

Compiled and aligned maps from USGS, Department of War, USS and other sources

In the mid-1800s, Chicago’s iron foundries were located on the north side of the Chicago River, but as the city expanded and demand for metal products boomed, iron and steelmakers sought space to spread out. While some business moved north, many eventually made their way to the Calumet area, which was not incorporated as a part of southeastern Chicago until the late 1880s. Businesses moved south in part due to the efforts of the Calumet Canal and Dock Company, which promoted the region as near industrial paradise. Claimed benefits of the region included lower taxes, access to rail and water traffic, and recent improvements by the Army Corps of Engineers. Among those companies lured were Pullman, which created the town of Pullman in 1881, and the North Chicago Rolling Mill Company, which bought the future site of the South Works in 1880.

The North Chicago Rolling Mill Company was founded in 1857 by Captain E.B. Ward to satisfy demand for railroad rails that was fueled by western expansion and a general boom in railroad construction. The company came to prominence in 1865 as the first company to roll steel rails rather than the much less durable iron rails. Despite a number of improvements to the North Works, Orrin W. Potter, President of the Rolling Mill Company, and other business partners realized that the North Works was too cramped to meet ballooning demand for steel rails. As such, they needed to create another works, so on March 28, 1880, the Rolling Mill Company bought 73 acres of land with 1,500 feet of frontage on the Calumet River and 2,500 feet on Lake Michigan and broke ground for what would become the first integrated rail mill in the world.

After acquisition of the marsh and beach land, the Rolling Mill Company began adding to the littoral transport of sediment that was trapped by the new government “improvements” with “great quantities of slag and refuse from their mills, on the shore and in the lake along it thereby artificially increasing the natural advance of the shore line.” By 1882, more than 30 acres of land had been added to the site.

This was the beginning of a long phase of expansions of the site that was conducted by a variety of owners, including United States Steel, until the late 1920s. Over the years, hot slag, granulated cinders and dirt were slowly poured into the site using small railroad cars. The location of the types of deposits is only partially known. Records of the deposits were regularly collected and noted by the site owners, but (at least surviving) maps were not cumulative for the process, so only spotty records of the types and times of fill exist.

Infill, 1919
An Illinois Steel Company map showing infill on the north end of the “reclamation” area, 1919

Crib Wall
Detail of a crib wall used during the infill process, 1914

By 1933, USS had completed infill activities and had nearly saturated the now 576 acre site with buildings without establishing a coherent plan for expansion. While the South Works would operate for another sixty years, this design problem would be a major factor in its undoing. While an attempt to “reclaim” an additional 194 acres from Lake Michigan was floated in 1963, the expansion was never made, and investments became increasingly sporadic as the global steel trade underwent extreme changes.

By the early 1980s, plant closure was certain after a major planned expansion was cancelled. Within 22 years starting in 1970, the Works changed from a major steel operation with a rated annual steel capacity of over seven million tons and more than 10,000 employees to a plant with a capacity of only 44,000 tons and 690 employees at its closing in April 1992. Massive demolitions were well underway.

1983 to 1994
USGS aerial photographs of the South Works from 1983 and 1994 showing massive demolition of site structures

After closure, the site continued to be fiscally productive for the company through slip leasing, utility negotiations and other activities, but it slowly gained its derelict appearance despite EPA activities, the proposed Solo Cup plant and the park service expansion along the coast.

United States Steel South Works Ore Bin Panorama
Looking into the north ore bins, 2003

Today, the most prominent structures are the ore bin walls, which have massive holes in them from the crane removal process. Wildlife has thrived in the interiors of these ore bins, with the concrete pad providing easy development of a wetlands and many of the supporting flora and fauna. When walking the site in 2003 and 2004, I saw or saw evidence of animals as diverse as horned owls, deer and foxes.

USS has experimented various plans for the site over the last twenty years with little luck, although it looks like the USS/McCaffery Interests current development plan may be realized in some capacity. Whether the development looks anything like the current proposal is anybody’s guess.

South Works Development Pitch
A previous development plan

The current promotional video for redevelopment

    Let me know if you’d like a citation for any of this material. The records of USS, the EPA and a variety of local historical societies were helpful in defining the history outlined above. Additionally, Kenneth Warren’s Big Steel: The First Century of the United States Steel Corporation, 1901-2001 and trade publications from the day were invaluable.

The 2011 Chicago Blizzard from Hyde Park

Chicago’s recent blizzard was the third snowiest on record, with 20.2″ of snow falling on the city and winds as high as 70mph. The winds were strongest near the lake, where drifting covered Lake Shore Drive and trapped cars throughout its length. I’ve received some requests to see the South Side scene, so I’ve compiled a few of my photographs from Tuesday and Wednesday here.

The blizzard at Promontory Point
The Blizzard Hits Promontory Point

Cars stranded on Lake Shore Drive
Lake Shore Drive in the Blizzard

Walking through snow drifts on 54th Street
Drifting on 54th Street

Harper Avenue and 53rd Street
Harper and 53rd Street

Drifting on Cornell Avenue
Cornell Drifting

Seemingly everyone headed into the streets when the clouds broke
Playing in the Drifts

Cars were still stranded on Lake Shore Drive in late afternoon
Stuck on Lake Shore Drive

A Year of Photographing Elsewhere

There’s no question that 2010 was an unprecedented year for my fieldwork. In addition to many Chicago area opportunities, I visited nearly two dozen major U.S. cities and had the opportunity to spend time in Belfast, Northern Ireland during Twelfth Night. Each location allowed for several days in the field, so I’ve amassed quite a collection of photographs.

As a way of getting a handle on that work, I pulled out one favorite photograph from many of the locations I visited. A few were exhibited in my recent work shows at the Op Shop and Everyblock, as well as the “Considering the City” show at Work • Detroit, but one would have to consistently follow my flickr stream to see all of these images — so I thought I should share them here.

Atlanta, Georgia


Baltimore, Maryland

Perlman Place, Baltimore

Belfast, Northern Ireland

Belfast Loyalist Bonfire Preparation, View #1

Chicago, Illinois

Residential Building, New Lights

Clinton, Iowa

Detroit, Michigan

Lit Sides

Indianapolis, Indiana


Las Vegas, Nevada

Police Raid, Children Walking

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Running Through the Demolition Site

New Orleans, Louisiana

Davis Mortuary Service, Crescent City Connection

New York City, New York

Metal Recycling, Cooperative Housing, Bronx

Oakland, California

In the Glow

Phoenix, Arizona

Sunnyslope Mountain, Women Talking

San Francisco, California


Sparta, Georgia

Hancock County Court

Washington, D.C.

Memorial, Anacostia Public Housing

New Documentary Project: Out My Window

My contribution to the National Film Board of Canada’s new experimental Internet documentary, HIGHRISE, is now online in “Out My Window.”

The NFB describes HIGHRISE as “a multi-year, multi-media, collaborative documentary project about the human experience in global vertical suburbs.” As part of HIGHRISE, the “Out My Window” documentaries use photo montages and audio slideshows (and, in some cases, 360 degree videos) to focus on the lives of residents in highrise buildings in 13 suburbs and cities around the world. The project was recently summarized in a Toronto Star feature that also uses one of my images.

The Chicago contribution is based on my Plan for Transformation series and interviews I conducted with a mother and daughter who lived in a Cabrini Green “white” building. The family has since been relocated to another Chicago Housing Authority property to make way for the demolition of their former building. A more-or-less direct link to the section on the “Out My Window” site is here, but all of the contributions are definitely worth viewing.

The project will make an offline premiere at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam in November. More details about the premiere and its subsequent installation at the Brakke Grond Theatre and Gallery in Amsterdam is available through the DocLab website.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Brian Ashby deserves credit for the high quality audio and plenty of other assistance. Heather Frise edited the piece, and the overall director is Katerina Cizek.

UPDATE: “Out My Window” subsequently won the IDFA DocLab Award for Digital Documentary Storytelling and an International Digital Emmy for Non-Fiction.

Watching, Observation

As both a sociologist and a photographer, it’s hard not to think a lot about observation. While I haven’t systematically addressed the topic, I have been slowly acquiring photographs of people quietly focusing their attention on a clear subject when I’m out in the world doing the same thing. I’m particularly intrigued by the relationship between the internal and external action in the scenes. I’ve included a few of those images below.

Watching, Residential Juxtaposition

Watching, Crawford Generating Station

Watching the ABLA Demoltion

Watching the Blaze

Watching, Three Abandoned

Watching the Maneuvering from Above Ardoyne

Watching, Lafayette Building

Recent Work at The Op Shop on July 25th

Running Through the Demolition Site
Running Through the Demolition Site – Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 2010.

A small solo show of my work from Chicago and eleven other locations around the country will be featured on Sunday, July 25 at the newest location of The Opportunity Shop, 5225 S. Harper Ave. The show will be open from 12:00-5:30pm, with a dinner open to the public on site starting around 6pm.

P.S. While you’re down in Hyde Park, you can also check out the Celebrate Hyde Park Music and Art Festival, which will be running from noon until 9pm on 53rd Street, with headlining act WAR.


Thanks to everyone who came out to the opening. Here is a photograph from the show.

Recent Work at The Opportunity Shop