Crime Then and Now: Through the Lens of the Chicago Tribune | Roosevelt University, Gage Gallery | Galleries | Chicago Reader
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Crime Then and Now: Through the Lens of the Chicago Tribune 

When: Jan. 22-April 11 2015
Five floors below street level, in the sub-sub-sub-sub-subbasement of Tribune Tower, sits the Chicago Tribune’s vast photo archive. For decades, the hundreds of boxes that hold tens of thousands of negatives sat relatively undisturbed in the cool darkness. A couple years ago, a small team of Trib photo editors began mining the archive, sifting through envelopes filled with fragile glass-plate negatives and acetate sheets. In addition to fueling historical-photo slide shows on the paper’s website, the editors’ efforts have yielded two books published last year, Chicago Portraits and Gangsters & Grifters (both from Evanston-based Agate Publishing), and now a gallery exhibit, “Crime Then and Now,” the second installment of Roosevelt University’s Gage Gallery’s “Above the Fold” series on Chicago photojournalism. (The third, opening in June, will feature work by Reader photographers.) Nearly half of the 62 images on display are black and whites from the archive; the rest are color shots taken with digital cameras. The older photos, a good number dating back to the 1920s, tend to feature familiar faces, most of them white: Al Capone, Clarence Darrow, Leopold and Loeb, John Dillinger. The contemporary images, some snapped as recently as last summer, largely document everyday victims of violence or grief-stricken loved ones, the majority of them black. What’s evident just beyond the frames of these photos is change: in the priorities of a daily newspaper’s coverage, in the expectations of photojournalists to tell particular stories, in the nature of the city’s violent crime. Also in play is the effect of temporal proximity on how we process upsetting images. A 1939 shot of mob attorney Edward O’Hare gunned down in his car is altogether horrific. And yet a 2013 photo of a pair of empty white sneakers strewn on the blacktop at the scene of a Back of the Yards shooting is actually more unsettling. —Jake Malooley

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