Chicago’s premier photojournalist Art Shay captured a moment in place and time, here in the early 1950s, when the gritty old city still held on, with its bittersweet ironies and brutalities, its harshness, and its anticipations of technology-fueled urbanity.
Shay could also show the seamiest sides—a man, again shot from behind, stands in the Maxwell Street police station, his back drenched in blood as the others go about their business.
The Daiter Gallery show is so popular that it has been extended beyond the original closing date of Feb. 25 and is now open through March 10.
Foreground, from left: Billy Cogran, Florence Shay, Art Shay, at Stephen Daiter Gallery opening reception. Photo by Richard Shay.
The University of Wisconsin in Madison has scheduled Art Shay for an artist talk on Wednesday, May 2. Shay will recap highlights of his seven decades as a photographer, shooting those in the hot spotlight and others in the cold shadows.
The visiting artist talk is at 4:30 p.m. in the Chazen Museum of Art in Madison.
In 2007, Shay had his first major retrospective of his black and white photographs which ran for six months at the Chicago History Museum: "The Essential Art Shay: Selected Photographs." In 2008, Shay had a solo show “Traces of a bygone America” in Paris at Gallerie Albert Loeb. Also in 2008, The Museum of Contemporary Art - Chicago held an exhibit of photographs titled “Art Shay: Chicago Accent” which included pieces from between 1949 and 1968 of Shay's work while working with Algren of Chicago's "underclass."
Since the opening in 1976 of Northbrook Court Mall in Northbrook, Illinois, Shay has been chronicling life at the mall. Shay is also working on a project on the life of Smashing Pumpkin's Billy Corgan. Since the end of 2010, Shay has been writing a weekly photography blog "From the Vault of Art Shay" on Chicagoist.com.
In 2010, Chicago's Thomas Master's Gallery featured Shay's first show of exclusively his color photography "Art Shay: True Colors." The Chicago Tribune named this show as one of the best 2010 Chicago gallery shows.
A showing of Shay's black-and-white work at the Stephen Daiter gallery is on view through Feb. 25. Bill Zwecker reports in the final lines of his Sun-Times column that starts with the latest Kardashian news that sales from the gallery started quickly:
Rocker Billy Corgan was among the first to snap up a precious early Art Shay photograph — “Dorsal Nude, Simone de Beauvoir” — at the recent Daiter Gallery opening of the latest Shay exhibition.
A Deerfield review report on the Art Shay exhibit, with photos by Richard Shay of the reception, includes Shay's account of how he took that photo:
But one of his favorite on-the-job memories was photographing Simone de Beauvoir, a French existentialist philosopher and feminist, when she visited Chicago to be with noted American author Nelson Ahlgren.
“Nelson was living in a $10-a-month apartment on Wabansia and asked if I could borrow a bath tub for Simone to use, because she wanted to bathe,” Shay said.
Anyone who wants more of that story will have the opportunity in May, in Madison.
Through Feb. 25, the Stephen Daiter Gallery at 230 West Superior in Chicago is exhibiting a group of black-and-white photos, including the image titled Skid Row (above), that capture a core period in Art Shay's career.
A few works by some of Shay's contemporaries are also on view in the exhibit, called "Art Shay and the Documenting of Mid-Century America."
At the opening on Friday, Shay was there greeting fans old and new. Many had heard Shay tell stories from decades of assignments for top magazines and corporations. His most recent stop, giving a presentation and slideshow at the Apple Store on the Near North side, drew enough fans shooting their own photos that Chicagoist put together this Thank you, Art Shay montage.
At one point, while Art Shay sat to sign autographs (in shadow, below), his wife, the rare book dealer Florence Shay, visited with a grandson, Seth Lavin, and great-grandson, Moses. (family photo by Richard Shay)
Art Shay in this video interview from the inaugural year of the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame talks about his friend Nelson Algren and how the two of them came up with the title for the Algren book on the city they both loved and documented.
Shay tells it this way: "The title was born in my '49 Pontiac." He recalls his own brainstorming: " 'We got to do this as a book, this is a book on Chicago. We need a title. Chicago is sort of a wild city, a historic city, it's a city of dynamite. It's a city on the make.' I said, 'That's the title.' He said, 'right, that's the title.' "
In his column for Chicagoist, Art Shay recently posted some memories of Senator Charles Percy, a Republican who represented Illinois in the United States senator from 1967 to 1985. This Art Shay montage shows Percy with Ronald Reagan and in the smaller image Chaim Weizmann with the young Sargent Shriver.
An excerpt from Shay on Percy:
Senator Chuck Percy (shown shaking the fake Gipper's hand), was an athlete, an ardent Christian Scientist like his mother, the father of four talented children. I started taking their Christmas card pictures in the fifties, when Chuck became head of Bell & Howell, mostly a camera company. I did his first Fortune magazine portraits and got to do annual reports for the company. When B&H scored the Canon distribution account, he gave me an early model of the fastest lens in the world, the Canon .095. (You saw some of its work on my recent essay of Elizabeth Taylor in the near-darkness of the Pump Room. When I was going to Africa in 1955 to make eight Zoo Parade movies for Lincoln Park zoomeister Marlin Perkins, he gave me his company's new seven-frames-a-second camera to test in the shadow of Hemingway's Kilimanjaro to shoot giraffe and zebra catching with the best licensed animal supplier for zoos, the 75 year old Afrikaan, Willi de Beer.)
When Eisenhower announced he was going to run for President, he called Percy and his family and apologized for taking the stage that Percy and many GOP wigs had thought would naturally be Percy's next step."
Ike had never heard of The Federalist Papers," said, "so I tutored him."
The Stephen Daiter Gallery has scheduled the opening reception for the Art Shay photo exhibit. Save the date: Friday, Jan. 6, from 5 to 8 PM. Meet the artist and view the show: "Art Shay and the Documenting of Mid-Century America."
The exhibit will be on display from Jan. 6 through Feb. 25.
If you make it to the reception, ask Art Shay about his mentor, Francis Miller, who taught Shay to always "keep shootin' whatever else was happenin" and to always speak well of associates who might put in a good or bad word about you to the boss.
The Stephen Daiter Gallery in Chicago has just announced a 2012 exhibit of Art Shay photography. From Jan. 6 through late February the gallery will display a photography show largely based on Shay's career.
Eighty percent of it will be a full retrospective of Art Shay's wide-ranging photojournalism for the magazines of his day, some of his 1,100 covers and irreverent pictures of celebrities and the news events of his time, plus many previously unexhibited pictures by Shay, whom the gallery has represented for 35 years.
The other 20 percent will include work by other masters of the past century -- namely Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank, whose candid images of their time have often been compared to Shay's.
Art Shay bringing it home with stories of home made enlargers and starting his career as a Life reporter. Great stuff.
The Midwest Photo Summit is the annual confab and celebration of the Illinois Press Photographers Association. Congtratulations to Photographer of the Year award winner Scott Strazzante of The Chicago Tribune. A deep bow to Justin L. Fowler of the State Journal-Register in Springfield for winning first place in the sports photography category. (Justin, maybe you can persuade your paper to run the photos, too, with the news of the award.)
For even more inspiration, the summit brought together prominent photographers for talks and workshops. The Sunday speaker was Art Shay:
His photographs of Chicago street life gained him recognition in the magazine world. Today, his photographs are featured in art galleries, museum collections, and in the pages of books, magazines and annual reports.
Shay has published more than 75 books on various subjects. His long friendship with the writer Nelson Algren led to the publication of Shay’s Nelson Algren’s Chicago. Shay and Algren met in 1949 and collaborated on many projects, including photos and an essay for Holiday Magazine that Algren later turned into his book Chicago, City on the Make.
Shay’s autobiography is titled Album for an Age: Unconventional Words and Pictures from the 20th Century.
The scene was captured by many of the photographers in the crowd. Reports of the talk, in short bursts of text, went out to the world live, on Twitter.