My blog posts may, however, still fit the niche I carved — life, work and the Internet. The Internet is increasingly where we find memories. It’s where we find people we knew in school, TV shows we used to watch, photos we want to share.
I already know several bloggers remembering Chicago, but I searched the Internet to find others. I found Forgotten Chicago, which you’ll certainly enjoy if you enjoy old signs and buildings you haven’t thought of in years. I got deeply lost in history on that site, but eventually found my way out and over to The Online Photographer and a post about a book, On City Streets: Chicago 1964-2004.
It’s a collection of photographs taken by Gary Stochl from 1964 to 2004, but if you’ve become acquainted with Chicago relatively recently, say within the past ten years, you may not recognize the city. Stochl focused on an individual or on a group of figures. There are no full frontal shots of landmarks here.
Instead, if you look closely, you’ll see barely recognizable fragments of Chicago icons. In the cover shot, for example, there’s a reflected logo of an O’Connor & Goldberg (O&G) shoe store. A photograph of a crowd includes a man carrying a Zimmerman’s shopping bag. The neon letters “orn” in cursive writing visible in a shop window are part of a Garrett’s caramel corn sign.
In Stochl’s photographs, the subject or subjects are captured as they’re moving from place to place. Riding escalators, waiting for buses, crossing streets, walking on sidewalks so wide you look twice, pushing revolving doors — people moving wordlessly through a modern urban landscape.
The title index at the end of the book reads like a list of bus stops. I don’t have rights to reproduce the photos on this blog, but here’s a few links to the photographer’s gallery site:
- Madison and Wells streets, 1975
- Union Station, 1974
- State and Randolph, 1974
- State and Lake, 1987
This is the Loop back when its glory days as a vibrant shopping and entertainment district were a distant memory. Back when the city made State Street a pedestrian mall/dedicated CTA bus thoroughfare that seemed soulless except for the man who played sax on the northwest corner of State and Monroe during the evening rush hour. Nothing to get nostalgic over in these photographs.
Cold, grey and bleak as these photographs are, they are the Chicago I remember. In 1978 I returned home after college and carried an almost empty briefcase around the city on my way to interviews that seemed as unlikely to lead to job offers as the State Street Mall would lead to a revitalized Loop. Demographics were against me, I was told. The same applied to the Loop.
The city jackhammered the mall in 1996. Long before that, I found a job, several in fact. The Loop and I, we haven’t looked back, but Stochl’s photographs made me miss those days.
If you’re interested, there’s a good backstory about how Stochl was discovered in 2003 with forty years’ worth of photographs. You can read about it in the foreword to the book or on the Online Photographer blog post linked above.
I’ll continue to post once a week on life, work, the Internet and memories of Chicago. Look for a new post every Monday and occasionally on Thursday or Friday.