Book review: Chicago Portraits.
Image above: Chicago Tribune photograph for one-time use only in conjunction with reviews or coverage of Chicago Portraits by Agate Publishing and the Chicago Tribune.
Behind the thick dark frames of his glasses, Woody Allen’s eyes are wide and pensive. Lips are pursed. Only one side of his face is visible and it is completely absent of expression. It is a moment rarely seen and scarcely captured.
Images so vivid they haunt you: Alex Garcia’s portrait of Woody Allen at the Drake Hotel in 2000, featured in Chicago Portraits, is one such image. It depicts a moment so rare and profound, that it reveals a mortality and vulnerability previously unseen. Consequently, an immediate intimacy is created between the viewer and the subject, and these ties percolate into the relentless progression of time.
Chicago Portraits, by the Chicago Tribune Staff, captures the power of portraiture photography, whilst showcasing the Chicago Tribune’s vast historical archive.
Staff photographers, such as: Bill Hogan, Val Mazzenga, Heather Stone, Chris Walker, Carolyn Van Houten, Ernie Cox and Walter Kale, layer the inside of the two hundred and eighty-eight page picture book. Original article excerpts accompany the black and white, and color images, illuminating the myriad of personalities that shaped the third most populous city in the United States.
The history of Chicago is equally as rich as the history of the Chicago Tribune. Founded in 1847 by James Kelly, John E. Wheeler and Joseph K. C. Forrest, the Tribune is a daily newspaper largely circulated through the Chicago metropolitan area and the Great Lakes region.
Chicago Tribune historical photo, 1984
After bordering on bankruptcy in 1855, the newspaper flourished under the editorship of Joseph Medill. In 1874, the Tribune began to invest more editorial space for illustrations, and by the early 1900’s photography had been introduced.
Portraits of iconic film stars: Charlie Chaplin, Louis Brooks, Clara Bow, Rudolph Valentino, and Anna May Wong sprinkle the pages of Chicago Portraits, immortalizing the rebellious flapper era. There is an austerity present in these images, possibly heightened by the stark black and white tones. Contrastingly, colourfully candid images of the “wild west” culture, such as the portrait of William Veeck Sr., president of the Chicago Cubs from 1919 to 1933, depict a prevalent and striking cultural schism.
Chris Walker, 2001
The chronicle of Chicago, and greater America, unfolds throughout Chicago Portraits. Activist Reverend Jesse Jackson speaks at the funeral of Black Panther party leader Fred Hampton; Chicago’s first female mayor, Jane Byrne, holds the Tribune announcing her victory at the 1979 Democratic Primary; and Weather Underground member, Bill Ayers, previously known for his involvement in anti-Vietnam war protests, becomes a focal point in a debate between Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Picture editors Robin Daughtridge, Kathrine Manker, Marianne Mather, Erin Mystkowski and Michael Zajakowski have meticulously pieced together fragments of time, incorporating both contemporary and classical photography mediums. Mr. Zajakowski writes, “Our region is a wonderfully diverse cultural, societal and political ecosystem, and the evidence is seen on the faces in this book”.
Robert Hanson and Edward Murphy.
Chicago Tribune historical photo, 1942
Some of the faces are weathered by degradation and loss; others are animated, optimistic and zealous. Era’s collide and lapse in the Tribune’s Chicago Portraits, subsequently creating a surreal and poetic memoir of the tattered fabrics of society.
In the foreword of Chicago Portraits, Rick Kogan reflects on the enduring nature of these images. “Wandering through the following photos,” Kogan writes, “ as if through some timeless gallery, I realize there is beauty in some, mystery in others, and truth and art in them all”.
Review by Kyla Woods