John H. White: Chicago at Daniel Blau
John H. White is an American photojournalist, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1982, and photographer for the Chicago Sun-Times for 35 years (from 1978 until May 2013). His exhibition of photography at Daniel Blau depicts and records life in the Chicago housing projects of the 1980s.
Structured in a linear fashion along a wall from left to right, it seems to have a certain narrative, beginning with a close look at children and youth. For example, I want to be a Gymnast features a girl somersaulting onto a pile of ragged cardboard sheets as a boy races by. The photos then pull back and show the projects themselves: familiar scenes of stark high rises and flats leaning against the sky. Next, the focus shifts onto adults, and there are some close scenes of older generations.
After this the continuity dissolves, which is a shame. The pieces yo-yo in and out of distance, skipping between subjects. It would, perhaps, have been beneficial to maintain the previous sense of progression, because the momentum of the show falls apart here. Arguably this reflects the social fragmentation, but the effect on the walls is more an increasingly random selection of photographs, attempting to cover as much as possible and inadvertently feeling scattered as a result.
There are a number of different minor themes running through the whole: generational close-ups contrast with their environmental scenes and group photos sit alongside sporadic pictures of wreckage and urban decay. It might have been better to group the photographs on display more effectively and perhaps better frame the different aspects of the whole in their themes. Overall though, it’s an enlightening series that does a good job of illustrating a particular part of Chicago and its inhabitants’ lives, in the 1980s.
Photos: Ivan Spasov
John H. White: Chicago is at Daniel Blau from 7th September until 5th October 2013, for further information visit the gallery’s website here.