Lights Over Pilsen | Slideshows | Chicago Reader

June 28, 2017 Slideshows » Arts & Culture

Lights Over Pilsen 

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Rick Majewski
"He’s shooting that bottle rocket out of one hand and holding a bunch like a bouquet of flowers in the other hand,” Majewski says. “The kids watching really want to do what the older guy’s doing, but they’ll have to wait until they get older."
Rick Majewski
"When you have a lot of people shooting off fireworks, things can go wrong," Majewski says. “In this case, someone threw a rocket in the middle of the street. When you see one go off on the ground, it really lights up the place for two seconds. I’m always trying to get shots like that, but once one started rolling towards me and I had to run—which is not easy to do while carrying two cameras and gear."
Rick Majewski
"These kids saw me with a camera and they wanted their picture taken,” Majewski says. "That kid on the right was really into it. I had some photo pouches on my belt and two cameras, and they thought I worked for a newspaper. I’ve shown this picture to other artists in the neighborhood and someone said, ‘In 20 years they’re going to be shooting fireworks together and be just as chummy together as they are now.’  "
Rick Majewski
"The fireworks can be really loud under the tracks. There’ll be an echo and you’ll feel the thud in your chest. It’ll set off some car alarms, but really nothing major has happened—which is surprising. A porch caught on fire one year, but that’s it. You’d expect there to be more accidents. When I go to the roof of my building the next day, it’s covered in spent bottle rockets."
Rick Majewski
"This is from my first trip to Pilsen. An aerial shell had just exploded and people were looking up when another exploded on the street."
Rick Majewski
"This is a typical scene,” Majewski says. "Friends and family gather on the sidewalk. There will usually be a few family members doing the fireworks in the street. This family recognized me from the year before and handed me tilapia, tortillas, and a beer right off the bat. They were shooting off fireworks and I thought, I want to shoot [photos]! But they were being so hospitable, so I ate quickly, watching out for the bones in the fish."
Rick Majewski
"Those teenage girls were just south of 19th Street and they’d just lit up the sparklers when the girl on the left noticed me."
Rick Majewski
The popular thing is to light the fuse of a bottle rocket and let it take off from your hand. I’m a wide-angle lens junkie—bottle rockets go off so fast, it’s the best way to catch them.
Rick Majewski
"One of the things you’ll see are these long strands of firecrackers. The fuses are all strung together. It sounds like a machine gun with this really loud finale. The guy standing there with the American flag is getting pelted by burnt pieces and is covered in ash. I’m sure his ears were ringing more than mine."
Rick Majewski
"This is Raul near the corner of 17th and Wood,” Majewski says. "I’ve gotten to know his family pretty well. They do a good show. They go down to Indiana to stock up. I’ve seen the back of the minivan piled high. Raul has since moved to the burbs, but his mother owns a building nearby and he comes back for the Fourth every year. It’s a tradition. If you’re Hispanic and you grew up in Pilsen, coming back for the Fourth of July is really special."
Rick Majewski
"All the kids want to learn how to shoot fireworks off with their hands like the older generation," Majewski says. "When the rocket goes off, it happens so quickly—it’s impossible not to blink."
Rick Majewski
"These kids are from a family I’ve photographed over the years. They live in Wisconsin but visit family in Pilsen every year. The brothers are attempting to light a fuse by blowing on the ember at the end of a stick instead of using a lighter. It’s easier for kids this way. The older generation teaches the kids to be safe about the fireworks; if you’re really little, you only get to play with sparklers. When I see this family, they always ask me if I’m hungry and hand me a taco and a beer."
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Rick Majewski
"He’s shooting that bottle rocket out of one hand and holding a bunch like a bouquet of flowers in the other hand,” Majewski says. “The kids watching really want to do what the older guy’s doing, but they’ll have to wait until they get older."

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