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As the author notes in ...
As the author notes in his introduction: "Uptown at the time fascinated and frightened me. From the 'L', I caught glimpses of streets littered with garbage, broken pavement, flop houses, winos sleeping on sidewalks, stripped and abandoned cars, buildings covered with gang graffiti, plus day labor agencies, taverns, pawn shops, and resale stores stretching to infinity."
But after the author overcame his initial fears, he also discovered many incredibly strong, kind, welcoming, and open people, struggling to eke out a living and raise families in difficult circumstances. He fell in love with photographing the people of Uptown and spent virtually all of his free time there from late 1973 to early 1977. His text also describes a perfect storm of converging economic, political and social forces that stalemated the redevelopment of this great urban melting pot, thus turning it into a cauldron of conflict.
Posted December 13, 2013
I've heard the author/photographer on PBS and NPR, and honestly, he just makes me angry. He walked around with a camera for a couple of years, talking to and taking pictures of people and scenes that fit his image of the inner city, and he thinks he knows it all. These were my streets, this was my life, he knows little if anything.
A passing reference to "rich people" from the lakefront (on NPR), and, as he tells it, everyone else is living in poverty, in gangs, everything else is falling down. Well some people were and some people weren't, and some places were and some places weren't. He said on NPR that his picture of a kid in front of rubble "foretold the future". "One thing is for sure", he said, "the odds were really stacked against kids growing up in this neighborhood." Well my friends and I went to Stewart, the school a half block out of his pictures, and there were kids who went to Harvard and the University of Chicago and Mount Holyoke and became doctors and lawyers and professors, there were kids who took other routes and went on to good/great lives, there were kids who went to prison, there were kids who ended up dead. Our school had some great teachers, not all, but many. It fed into a high school with more outstanding teachers. Personally, when I went to college and grad school with students who had gone to Eastern prep schools and wealthy suburban schools, I never felt at a disadvantage, not for a moment. Nothing was "foretold".
In print and on TV, he has referred to the people of Uptown as "invisible people". A condescending, patronizing, and frankly, offensive description of the people I grew up with. But it is true that most of the Uptown I knew, and still know, family and friends, were invisible, to him.
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Posted December 13, 2013
While the photos in this book are outstanding, it's the stories behind the images that really shine. Bob Rehak shows the diversity and unique personality of a neighborhood that is, in many ways, very similar to neighborhoods in today's largest cities. In many cases, I get the distinct impression that the subjects of these photographs faced their own difficulties in a positive and uplifting way that we could all learn from.
Overall: an incredible collection of images, descriptions, and stories that really brings the location and era to life.
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