Killing Season Chicago, Wicker Park, July 2011

Click on the names of the deceased on the right navigation panel to see images of the sites and information about the circumstances of their deaths.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Wrapping up the West Side...Almost

Along with needing to go out and photograph the few extra homicides that showed up suddenly on the homicide tracker since I finished last fall, I also have a few places I wanted to revisit and re-photograph. I got a text from X at about 6:30 in the morning asking if we were still on. It looked dark outside from the comfort of my bed, so I pulled myself up to go look out the window. It was overcast and a little wet, but otherwise perfect light for photographing. We were on.
X picked me up about an hour later in his almost brand new car. It was quite a change from having to leave the passenger side door open when we got out to photograph since the door didn't open from the outside. This car was shiny and perfect. I hopped in and we headed to the West Side. I had 5 new places to visit and 5-6 that I was hoping to re-visit. X is back working on the West Side since his citywide unit was disbanded, so it seemed natural to hit up that area first.
Our first stop covered two of the sites that I wanted to re-shoot. The first was 5101 West Monroe Street in the West Side's Austin neighborhood where Brian Daniel was shot while he was standing on the sidewalk. The shooting happened at about 4:45 p.m. on August 16th. Brian was playing cards when three male assailants approached and opened fire. Two other suspects fired shots at a group across the street from where Brian was standing, striking the him while he tired to run from the scene. He suffered multiple gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead at 8:30 p.m. at Stroger Hospital. Police believe the shooting was gang-related. Since it was an overcast morning with perfectly diffused light, I took the opportunity to re-shoot the same image I made last summer with much better lighting. The block was extremely quiet save for a few pedestrians, one of whom entered the building that Daniel was shot in front of. She seemed unconcerned with my photographing.
Diagonally across the intersection from this site was 5049 West Monroe Street in Austin where Ronnie Peterson was found shot in the head in his car in the late afternoon on Sunday August 22nd. Reports say that someone inside a vehicle that pulled up next to his car fired several shots at him. This incident happened just five days after Brian Daniel was shot. Could two people shot on the same corner within five days of each other possibly be unrelated? Last time I photographed here there was a man walking back and forth in and out of my frame. As it turned out I didn't have a good image without him in it. I took the chance on this quiet morning to get an image free of people.
We got back in the car and headed for 4150 West Grenshaw Street where Anthony Clemons was shot and killed on the morning of August 17th in the West Side's Lawndale neighborhood. The shooting happened at about 8:25 a.m. It was still early and this block was also extremely quiet. Since last year, a little red brick house across the street from the site had been abandoned. It looked as though a tree branch crumpled a corner of the eave over the front porch and broke the large front bay window. It was now half boarded up. We visited this location last year while hubbub erupted a few blocks away. There had been a shooting just north west of the site. X thought that it would be a great opportunity to go to the site while the early morning gunfire left everyone retreated into their homes. The often busy area, he said, would be deserted. Today there was only a small group of young men sitting on the front stoop of a house about a block west.

We were close to the station so next we stopped in to obtain the exact addresses of the 5 new sites that we had not visited yet. I followed X into the building and downstairs past doors that read things like "Gang Unit" on their placards. Papers were posted on the walls that were filled with the faces of undesirables. X stopped in front of one to show me a guy that he had been telling me a story about in the car. We ducked into a room and pulled up two chairs next to the computer. The wall above us was strewn with fliers announcing new and innovative ways that criminals were hiding their dope, guns, etc. The most memorable to me were a gun stashed in what looked like a 7-11 big gulp and a lipstick that is really a knife. There were some pretty inventive ideas up there. If only they could be used in a more productive way. We got the addresses and also began to work through my list of questions. Things like, "Was this a double homicide?" We made some progress then decided to leave the rest for another time.

Garfield Park Conservatory's Fern Room windows post hailstorm

We pulled out of the station and headed to our next location. We passed by the Garfield Park Conservatory, which is closed indefinitely after massive damage from a hailstorm earlier in the summer. I could see the damaged roof and broken windows from Lake Street. We arrived at 3125 West Washington where Alan Penny was doused in gasoline and lit on fire in his home on July 2, allegedly by his girlfriend, after the two had an argument. The sun had burned off the early morning haze and the sun was now shining relentlessly. When X and I visited this location last summer, a car was parked in front of the site with what looked like a bullet hole over the driver side wheel well. This summer it looked like a whole new neighborhood. A man was tending to his garden across the street, a lone tree in an empty lot stood alone, where last summer a host of junkies and drunks shaded, and bikers passed in a steady stream. I photographed, while X and I marveled at the changes.
Our next location was 735 North Monticello where Isaac Davis III was shot and killed. This location was one that I was weary going back to. I only got two frames off before X ushered me out last time. The site is across the street from a Head Start. Today we arrived just as school was beginning. Parents dropped their kids off one by one, making it much friendlier than the last visit. The two dope spots that were on opposing corners a half a block up last summer were gone. I assume interrupted by the massive construction project on Chicago. Currently there are no corners for them to hold. I had plenty of time to get the images I wanted this time around.
We pulled onto Chicago amid all the construction to head to the next location. We passed a storefront with big iron grating in front of the windows. X told me that he picked up a guy there that was dealing heroin. They found his stash in a magnetic hide a key behind one of the grates. He told me a few more stories as we headed to the first new location at 655 North Spaulding. On June 17th, a local rapper and another man were accused of beating 46-year-old Larry Brown to death because he accidentally scratched the rapper's car. This may not have showed up on the homicide report until later because Brown went into a coma before he eventually died of the injuries he sustained. X was skeptical of the visit the location because a few weeks ago, a police officer shot someone a block away from there. He decided we could go take a look and if it looked ok we'd get out. Things were pretty quiet there. A young man sat on his stoop smoking a cigarette, but there was no one else around. X decided that if anyone asked our story was that we were part of the investigation of the police shooting. He figured that would put us on their side and we would pose no threat. As I set up my tripod and photographed the man that was smoking walked on to the sidewalk and paced up and down the block. He watched us carefully. Soon another man came walking down the street and began to shout "po-po, po-po!" After he passed, the other young man came towards us and said, "You ain't the po-po, are you?" X responded, "I don't know, am I." as he lifted his shirt revealing his police radio. The man smiled and said, "Damn! You is the po-po." As we got back into the car the man asked if the photographs had anything to do with the shooting. X told him they did. The man responded, "That was some crazy shit." We smiled and were on our way.
There was another location close by that X was pretty sure we wouldn't be able to photograph, but he thought we could at least drive by and see. He said that he thought it was a drug house, but he wasn't positive. He was right, as we drove past 3359 West Iowa, I could see that the house was teeming with young boys hanging on the stoop, calling out, and watching us carefully as we passed by. We would have to revisit that location at a very early hour to get a chance at a photograph.
Our last location was a redo of a site from last summer. We had the address of the victim's house rather than the location of the murder. I discovered this while looking through the news reports. The address we photographed for Adrian Gates was on a residential street, but the image showed cops placing numbers on the ground in front of a gas station. X and I found the real address, 3656 West Grand. It was on a heavily traveled street about half a block down from a gas station. While we were photographing there, a man walked up with a scraggily looking pit bill that he was walking. It had a belt around it's neck for a collar. He told us that it was running around the neighborhood, so he was taking care of it until the owner came back. He expressed how bad he felt for it. Obviously the owner didn't treat the dog very well.
At this point X and I decided to call it a day. We would go out at least one more time to photograph the remaining spots which include one on the west side and about 5 on the south.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Red Eye

'Killing Season Chicago' was featured on the Red Eye's Wicker Park/Bucktown blog yesterday.
Check it out here.

Violet Hour's New Mural is Homicide Reminder

Chicago Tribune Covers 'Killing Season'

I have some exciting news! Earlier this week I was interviewed by Lauren Viera from the Chicago Tribune about my 'Killing Season' installation at The Violet Hour. The article and accompanying photographs were published in the Arts & Leisure section of today's paper. If you get the printed copy, check it out. The online version can be accessed via this link.
'Killing Season' Yields Public Art

Killing Season Mentioned on WBEZ's 848

I got a nice mention by Lauren Viera on WBEZ's the 848 on Monday while she was being interviewed about public art in Chicago.
The broadcast can be heard here.
Chicagoans reconsider public art after peeking up Marilyn Monroe's dress

Monday, July 4, 2011

Killing Season Chicago

Killing Season Chicago at The Violet Hour in Wicker Park

As of May 1st 2010, it was estimated that the same number of Americans were killed in Chicago as in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq combined. In a time when Americans are focused on simultaneous wars in places that are beyond our immediate reach, I am interested in exposing the breadth of violence that occurs right here in the city of Chicago. It is common to hear someone say after a particularly devastating day for the city, "And it's not even summer yet." As the temperature rises so does the homicide rate. Beginning on Memorial Day and ending on Labor Day of 2010, I tracked the homicides in the city. Once the crime scenes were processed and the yellow tape was taken down, I visited and photographed the locations of each murder. This piece, which represents the homicides that took place between July 1st and Labor Day, shows 107 of the 173 killings in the city last summer. The form of the installation is created by data. Reading left to right, each day is represented by a column, each person that was killed on that day is stacked on that column in the order that they were killed. The result is a chart that looks like a city skyline. The purpose of this installation is to make tangible the statistics that we gloss over in the news every day.

The installation is finally complete. Stop by The Violet Hour for some tasty cocktails and check it out!

1520 N Damen: Day 3

After 3 hours of painstakingly cutting out stencils, I finally got to put the finishing touches on the facade of the Violet Hour yesterday morning. With the help of my wife and my father-in-law, I taped up the stencils for the words "Killing Season Chicago" and spray painted them a bright construction cone orange.

Under the chart, I added the months July, August and September to indicate what time period the installation represents.

As we were painting, a young woman from the neighborhood stopped to express her concern over the word "killing" being painted on a wall in her neighborhood. After explaining the project to her, she asked whether it would be clear as to how I stood on the issue. Erica explained that it was about raising awareness and that clearly, no one is for killing.

After peeling off the stencils, people really started to stop and look. It made me excited to see so many people wander by and stop to check it out.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

1520 N Damen: Day 2

Killing Season had to be slightly modified to fit on the front of The Violet Hour. In order for the images to be a decent size, I had to cut out some of the timeline. I decided that since the installation was going up on July 1st, that I would start from that date and end on Labor Day. On Thursday, I returned to the wall to wheat paste up the images with the help of my friend Rachel Esser and my wife Erica.

Wicker Park is such a bustling neighborhood, which made for a very interesting day. I ended up talking to all kinds of people about what I was doing. One gentleman asked if the homes were for sale. After hearing about the project, he came back repeatedly throughout the day to look as the installation grew.

An older gentleman stopped and chatted with us for awhile about everything from Lady Gaga to Al Capone. He even did a little dance for us after which he told every girl who walked by that they either looked like Lady Gaga or Jennifer Lopez.

My friend Cassie Stadnicki took pictures while we worked. Check out her website to see more of her work.