Paul Erschen, Artist

Photographs from the “Changing Chicago Project” are essential as they index anonymity and obscurity in 1980’s Chicago. The photographers, seemingly unified by a strong sense of regionalism, moved in-and-around the city’s omnipresent grid, seeking out the interstitial spaces: a shuttered gas station, single room occupancy apartments, vacant land, lonely retail units, retirement homes –subjects that too often remain unsifted by institutional histories. As an artist who has scoured the city, collecting plastic drug bags, used condoms, and Newport cigarette packs, I feel a similar motivation to document the anonymity and obscurity of Chicago.

Similar to collecting, photography has a very tenuous evidentiary potential, and the photographers of the “Changing Chicago Project” respond to this potential with sobering formality. Even the somewhat arbitrary timeline of the project, which was “launched in 1987 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the invention of photography and the 50th anniversary of the Farm Security Administration documentary project” is valuable in the sense that the archive exists as a stubborn sliver of history, beautifully resistant to narration and mythology.

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