Friday, June 25, 2010
Yesterday morning I went out to photograph with another one of C's freinds. Let's call him H. I met H at about 9 o'clock, grabbed some Starbuck's Coffee and were on our way to the South Side. We hopped on the Dan Ryan and got off at 95th Street. Our first site was 9300 South Ridgeland Ave where Rosie Morris murdered Patricia Clark after an argument took place in her home during a Thursday night card game. The neighborhood consisted of block after block of carbon copy bungalows with perfectly manicured lawns. The area was quiet. The only people I saw out were a few elderly African-American women on a morning walk. Nothing about this place was indicative of the violence that occurred there.
Next we went to the 7900 block of South Brandon where Dwoyne Baker, 29, was killed by gunfire from a passing car while on the sidewalk near his home. Brandon is the last street before Rocky Ledge Park and the lake. Single-family homes line one side of the street while super tall grass presses against a big chain linked fence on the opposite side of the street. The address that Baker was shot in front of was a modest looking home with kids toys strewn all over the small front yard. There was not a soul in sight, no one sitting on their front porches, no one out walking. It was eerily quiet as I photographed.
Nicholas Johnson, 18, was shot at least 6 times on the corner of Throop and 80th Street in what has been determined as a gang related incident. This neighborhood was as surprising to me as the first we one visited. It was a sleepy street where the residents were out weeding their gardens and having friendly chats with their neighbors. Directly on the corner was a big sign that read, "Welcome to the 7900 Throop Block Club - NO excessive car horn blowing, car washing or repairs, ball playing, littering or loitering, soliciting, dog nestling on lawns, illegal activities, loud music, or speeding - There is Strength in Unity." I imagine Johnson fell to the ground right beside that sign. As I set up my camera to photograph, a few cars sped by with the music blaring. A man across the street leaned up against the fence of his yard and watched me shoot. As we made our way out of that neighborhood, I noticed more signs on each corner of a similar ilk to the one I photographed.
H warned me that the next two locations were not going to be as nice. We turned on Bishop from 61st Street and it was as though we entered an entirely unfamiliar place. People all up and down the block were crowded on the front steps of the houses. We pulled up behind a guy that was cleaning his car in front of a house where 6-7 guys were standing on the porch. H stood in the street facing them with his hands behind his back as I photographed. I found this site hard to photograph. The street was narrow and the buildings were tall making it hard to get a good perspective in a landscape frame.
Our next location was one block west and almost exactly 1000 north of where we were. H thought I might like to see the what the area was like so instead of going back out to a main road, we took Laflin all the way through. The ratio of boarded up houses to ones that were lived in became about 3 abandoned to every 1 that was inhabited. On the way up, H stopped and talked to two little kids that were playing with fireworks in the street. He asked them what they had there. One responded that they weren't doing anything as he guiltily put his hands behind his head and the other said in a soft scared voice that they had firecrackers. When we finally arrived at 5115 S Laflin there was a couple on the front stoop. H asked them if they could step to the side for a few minutes so that I could photograph. The young man laid on the hood of his car that was parked just outside of my frame and continued to talk to his girlfriend as though we weren't even there. A pile of Kettle One bottles still sat in front of the building where Darius Murphy, 19, was found with a gunshot wound to the head on May 30th. We thanked the couple and proceeded to the last location for the day.
2800 W 46th Street, where 18-year-old Frankie Zamudio was shot in the back, was much different than the prior two locations. By now, the sun was overhead and the sky was full of perfectly formed clouds. It looked a bit like Pleasantville with the exception of all the garbage and liquor bottles scattered in the grass along the sidewalk. As I set up my camera a man and his child walked by, he smiled widely and said hello. Imagining someone being gunned down here was incredibly difficult.
Including the sites I photographed yesterday, I have now been to 21 out of 50 locations. I have a feeling I am going to be playing catch up for the whole summer.