Posts Tagged 'Chicago'

Over the Atlantic, 1996

Joel Wanek

I discovered Joel Wanek and his website via a Google alert earlier this week and was immediately transfixed by this very Orwellian photo. Almost instantly, images of giant telescreens, the Thought Police, Hate Week, and “Big Brother is Watching You,” whipped through my brain.

“There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.”

But what is also rather fortuitous about this photo and Wanek’s other work, is the fact that a good portion of Wanek’s street photography is based in Chicago, IL. Which, as you should all know, is a state that has made it a Class 1 felony (punishable up to 15 years in prison) for anybody caught using an audio recording device to document encounters with law enforcement and other government officials without their consent.

“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power…Power is not a means; it is an end…The object of power is power.”

This photo is great, but it would have been even better if it was captured over the Atlantic in 1984.

Chicago

Photo by M. Sauter

A Master Street Photographer is Unearthed

Photo by Vivian Maier, courtesy of John Maloof

The late photographer Vivian Maier has been having a bit of resurgence lately — actually, resurgence implies she was known at all. In fact, the Chicago nanny’s work might never have seen the light of day if weren’t for a fortuitous string of events.

It all started when a young real estate agent named John Maloof purchased Maier’s collection of about 10,000 negatives at an auction house in 2007, with the intention of finding archival photos for a book he was working on about a local park. He didn’t find what he was looking for, but instead was propelled on an intense journey to discover who Maier was, and beyond that, bring her the recognition she so richly deserves.

Through his amateur detective work, soliciting advice on Flickr, research, and reaching out to the families she’d worked for, Maloof was able to piece together Maier’s story, and more importantly, ascertain the gold mine he’d stumbled upon. Since then, he’s acquired more of her photos and some of her personal effects: clothing, books, albums, cameras. The collection has grown to about 100,000 black and white negatives and 20-30,000 color slides taken from the 1950s through the 1990s.

Maloof set up this blog to showcase Maier’s photos, sought funding and partnerships, got a book deal, and is working on a documentary film. The project has turned into a full-time job, and consumes him almost entirely. He says he didn’t know what street photography was when he purchased her work. Now, he lives and breathes it.

And amazingly, most of Maier’s work is still unseen, including dozens of undeveloped rolls of film. But what is out there is pretty great — demonstrating a watchful eye, a sense of humor, and a thoughtful appreciation for the small details in life.

The first US exhibition of Maier’s photography is currently running at the Chicago Cultural Center through April 3rd.

Concert Photography Bans – Fair or Facist?


Photo by jcbehm

The Chicago Reader delves into an interesting topic in this week’s issue asking, “Do festivals like Pitchfork and Lollapalooza have the right to restrict photography in a public park?” They’re specifically talking about the ban on professional cameras and detachable lenses at these type of concerts. On the one hand, yes of course. The concert organizers have leased the space, and for that fee, are able to make rules that wouldn’t otherwise apply – like, first and foremost, charging an entry fee.

But the writers talked to civil rights lawyer Mark Weinberg, who frames it as an “interesting constitutional question” — namely, can the government enter into an agreement with a private party that takes away a fundamental right of its citizens? On top of that, Weinberg says, it’s “an arbitrary and unreasonable restriction” because it’s not about security, but about compensation or brand management or vanity. It’s because the performers want to be able to control, and to make money off of, their own images — and they don’t want you to. (You’re welcome to take a lousy point-and-shoot shot, of course.) As the article says:

“Concert promoters are trying to control something—the creation and dissemination of images taken at an outdoor concert in a public park—that is largely beyond their control, and they’re starting to look silly doing it.”

Silly or not, this seems like one photography rule that is unlikely to change.

Article from Chicago Reader

Chicago: Windy and Watched 24/7


Photo by RUNFAR

It’s always funny when people get upset about being photographed in public because they clearly don’t realize how much they already are being filmed. But I guess it’s preferable to be filmed by a vast network of surveillance and security cameras over a lone street photographer. Right? Right.

And if you’re in Chicago, you should know you are being filmed more than in any other city in the US. The city is plastered with cameras — likely over 10,000 of them — and the police use them to solve crimes from suicides to drug sales, and the people are just fine with it.

In less than a decade and with little opposition, the city has linked thousands of cameras — on street poles and skyscrapers, aboard buses and in train tunnels — in a network covering most of the city. Officials can watch video live at a sprawling emergency command center, police stations and even some squad cars.

What’s more, the ever-politic Mayor Richard Daley says he could install 10,000 more cameras and no one would say a thing. So, watch out.

(Funny thing is, these cameras never seem to videotape Chicago’s corrupt politicians or abusive police force breaking the law.)

Article from Chicago Tribune

Chicago to Give Security Guards More Power?

In what has to be the king of bad ideas, Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago said a proposal to give private security guards the authority to write tickets might just be a good thing for the city.

The Chicago Tribune reports that two South Side alderman proposed the idea to allow the private armed security guards that patrol their districts to have ticket-writing authority  for minor infractions, like loitering, graffiti and parking violations. They reason that that will free up the real cops to focus on violent crime.

“It’s not a bad idea,” Daley said. “The more police you have out there … I like the concept … it will help us.” Does Daley really understand the proposal? They are not proposing more police on the street. They’re proposing to give non-police more police-like authority.

In a city known the world over for its colossal corruption problem, giving what amounts to hourly contractors the authority to ticket whomever they see fit is rife with problems. Questions that immediately pop to mind…. Who are the security guards accountable to? Will they have additional training in law enforcement? What happens when the guy they’re trying to ticket for tagging pulls a gun?

It seems like, counter to the plan, you will see an uptick in violence and unrest coming from altercations with inexperienced guards and petty criminals, along with wrongful citations and claims against the city.

Thankfully the police union denounced the idea, and let’s hope the proposal doesn’t go far.  In the Chicago Sun-Times, the Fraternal Order of Police’s Greg Bella said,  “When you put somebody out there who does not know the job, it makes double work for us.”

While I am no fan of cops writing citations, I would much prefer to get one from them over a clueless power-tripping security guard with no real background in law enforcement. Can you imagine if these guys had that power?

Article from the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times

Court Clears Chicago Photojournalist

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Photo by CatalogThis

For those of you who followed the story here back in October and November, you’ll remember that Mike Anzaldi is the freelance photojournalist who was unjustly (some would say ridiculously) arrested twice in Chicago for trying to shoot footage at crime scenes. The conclusion to the story is that a judge finally ruled in his favor, but the path to that point was predictably convoluted and drawn out.

After several court dates over the past few months, and coverage by the Chicago Tribune, the city and state decided that they would indeed press forward and charge Anzaldi with breaking the law. (Anzaldi heard that the coverage by the Tribune was in part responsible for the decision to move forward.) He was charged with two ordinance violations by the city and three counts of obstruction by the state.

Anzaldi picks up the story here:

Several court appearances went by with no real clear indication of what I was being charged with. The judge agreed, but allowed the state to amend their charges so that they made sense. This happened a few times. If it sounds silly, believe me, it was better being there. Even after the judge held the state’s hand through these pre-trial follies, the state still didn’t satisfy the court. 

The day of the trial, my attorney made a few pre-trial motions to dismiss a couple of the charges. The state was arguing that I obstructed the commander by filming. My attorney argued that it was impossible to obstruct by filming. The judge agreed, and tossed out that charge. The problem for the state was that their whole case was based on that notion; they argued that my filming created a chilling effect to the people who were gathered around me when the commander came over to interview them about the shooting. Never mind that it never happened. There was no interviewing, and no one was chilled.

 But, that was their made-up story, and they were going with it. Again, the judge threw that out before the trial began, so it was like the whole day, and their whole strategy, was out the window by 10 a.m. The rest of the charges were equally hollow and ridiculous.

At the end of the day, the judge admonished the state for failing to defend their claims.  He also mentioned that the commander’s testimony was surprisingly different than what was recorded on tape. While stopping short of calling him a liar, he said he didn’t understand why he would testify something different from what we would see on tape.

That said, the judge also indicated that if the state had successfully argued that their case was based on me chilling potential witnesses due to my filming, that he would have likely accepted that claim. Again, that didn’t actually happen, nor did the state have that opportunity due to their own incompetence.

Anzaldi is contemplating his next move. And he still has his video of the first incident, which he says is fairly tame, but it does prove his innocence without question. He says he may or may not release it one day.



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