This project is an offshoot of Killing Season Chicago, made for specifically for Crime Unseen at the Museum of Contemporary Photography. The show will run from October 28th - January 15th. This addendum will mirror the time period of the show.

Killing Season Chicago Addendum

Killing Season Chicago Addendum
Museum of Contemporary Photography, 2011

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Storefront Churches & Metal Shades

X picked me up on Thursday morning at about 7:15 am wearing shorts and a t-shirt. I looked down at my jeans, hooded sweater, and jacket and started laughing. He clearly hadn’t checked the weather before he left to pick me up. It was a sizzling 50 degrees out. He said he’d tough it out. We decided to head to the Far South Side and work our way back north. We hopped on the highway and got off right before the Skyway to get to our first site, 731 East 130th Place, where Jerome Michaels was shot and killed in December of 2010. He was shot in the head near the entrance to the Altgeld Gardens housing complex. The complex was extremely well tended to and had gorgeous landscaping. There was even a neatly planted row of new trees on both sides of the main entry road. This area of the South Side is low and open so the wind whipped through relentlessly chilling us as I photographed. People drove in and out as I photographed, but no one asked what I was doing or even really looked my way. On our way from this site to the next, I noticed the area was teeming with storefront churches like the one below.

Our next site was 11445 South Michigan Avenue where David Rodgers Jr. was shot and killed on the sidewalk in front of Dolla’s Barbershop & Beauty Salon. The shop was next door to another storefront church called Greater Faith Cathedral. This part of Michigan Avenue is atop a hill that slopes down to the east. To the north of the barbershop, there was an empty lot that sloped down revealing a small community of abandoned buildings below. Since Michigan Avenue is a busy road, it took perfect timing to photograph the site without any passing traffic or pedestrians in the images. We were at this site around the time that all the kids were walking to school so there were echoes of laughter all around us. The sounds were completely incongruous to the reason I was there. It was an oddly uncomfortable tension.

Historic Pullman

Pullman today

From there we drove to Pullman. The Pullman neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago is where, in the 1880s, George Pullman began his railroad car company. His company grew so large that he bought up most of the surrounding area. Dreaming of a small utopia for he and his workers, he controlled the housing, stores and everything else nearby. It wasn’t until 1889 that the town of Pullman became a neighborhood with in the City of Chicago. The Pullman Company closed its doors in the early 1980s, but many of the historic structures still stand. While Pullman was hard to navigate because of all the railroad tracks that cut off big streets in their tracks, our meandering brought us to some wonderful old historic sites like the clock tower shown here. From the signage and images on the fences surrounding it, it looks like they will be doing a historic restoration on it soon.
Next we drove to the corner of 111th Street and South Vernon where 20-year-old Cordero Nash was shot and killed in an incident on November 12th. He was killed in a vehicle right next to a huge parking lot for the True Dime of Holiness Baptist Missionary Church. An off-duty police officer was also fired on in the incident, but was not hit. The church had a huge sign with a scrolling LED screen. The red words that scrolled by as I was photographing not only informed of mass times and community activities, but also looped bible passages that asked not to kill and to avoid living a life of abundance. It was as though the words were specifically attached to the loss of Nash’s life. Where the last site seemed like such a contradiction, this one seemed to chillingly mirror what happened there.

Instead of heading straight north as we had planned, X decided we should go west to the site of a triple murder at 11104 South Bell Avenue in the Morgan Park neighborhood. On November 29th, 43-year-old Stacy Cochran Hill and her two daughters, Jade Cochran, 17, and Joi Cochran, 11, were found stabbed to death in their apartment. Just a few days later, Jade’s boyfriend, 18-year-old Denzel Pittman was charged with the murders. The beautiful brick apartment building was the only of its kind on a street full of single-family homes. It was a chilly morning, but people were out walking their dogs, sitting on their porches, and waiting at bus stops. The fall weather didn’t seem to affect the blossoming gardens and the green leaved trees here. One suggestion that was made to me when I showed Killing Season was to figure out some sort of photographic device that would differentiate between a murder that happened outside on the sidewalk and one that happened inside like this incident. In an effort to do this, I got very close up and photographed right into the shaded window on the ground floor, cropping out any context of place other than the window. It felt very invasive and uncomfortable to do this, but it will be clear among the others that these three women were murdered in their home.

After leaving this site X and I made our way back east and a little north to 10415 South Michigan Avenue to an abandoned building where Yvonne Johnsonhammer was found dead from what was described as multiple injuries. This abandoned building was also next to a storefront church. A man standing in the churches entryway watched as I photographed the building. This was also a site that was inside the building, so X took me around the back into the alley and I was able to get close to the boarded up entryways and windows. Oddly, it appeared that people dumped their trash bags out on the sides on the road in the back here. The overgrown grass was strewn with not just beer bottles and cans, but also what appeared to be household refuse.

On our way to the next site, we passed an area where many of the houses had metal shades that came down over their windows and doors. I remembered seeing this a few times last summer, but was struck by how many houses in this neighborhood had them. X told me it was not only to keep people from breaking in, but also to keep out bullets. It was sad to me that people have to live in that kind of fear. You can see the shade ¾ of the way down on the middle house in the image below.

18-year-old Alonzo Jones was standing in front of his house at 9238 South Dobson Avenue on Halloween night last year when a car pulled up and someone in it opened fire killing him. When we pulled up to the site, there was a young man sitting on the front stoop of the house next door. X wanted to get out first to make sure that the boy wouldn’t give us any trouble. He was unfazed by X so I got out of the car with my camera and set up to photograph. I said good morning to the boy and he said good morning back. He asked what the pictures were for and I told him that they were for a project about violence and that someone was killed here. He didn’t know about the death. I asked him if he lived there and he said yes. I was surprised that he didn’t even know it happened. Aside from him, there was only one other woman out on the block. She was on her porch a few houses up beating a rug, stopping occasionally to watch us. As we pulled away from the site, another young man came out of the house where the boy was sitting. He was much more animated talking with his hands and watching us drive away.

The next site was at 10033 South Calhoun Avenue where Ronald Gillerson was beaten and stabbed to death when someone came to the door of the halfway house demanding money from him. X and I were so busy looking for the address that we didn’t realize that Calhoun was a one-way street. X parked, facing the wrong direction, in front of the house next door to leave me a clear view of the site. I set up my camera to photograph the house and a little old lady next door came out on her porch and yelled over to X. She asked him if he knew it was a one-way street. He looked around and laughed, apologized to her and told her he didn’t realize. I had only taken a few shots of Gillerson’s house when I saw the shades moving inside through the lens of my camera. A few seconds later a man came out the front door and asked why I was taking pictures of the house. Again, I told him it was for a project about violence. He asked how I knew someone was killed there and I told him it was in the news. I asked if I was wrong and he said no. He wanted to know why we chose this house. X told him we were photographing every homicide. The man eased up and smiled. He chatted with us a little more and had no problem with me photographing. We wished him a good day and got back in the car.

From there we went to the garage behind 8140 South Burnham Avenue where Michael Flisk, an on-duty Chicago police evidence technician and Stephen Peters, a retired Chicago Housing Authority police officer were shot and killed after a burglary in the retired officer’s garage. The house was on a block that appeared to have about as many boarded up houses as lived in ones. As we drove through I noticed a plethora of orange stickers on buildings announcing that water service or gas service had been cut. The garage looked as though it hadn’t been opened in a year. Ivy grew over one side of the structure and door and one of the windows was boarded up with a painted white panel. The house in front had metal shades on all the windows that were all pulled down. There were landscapers at the far end of the alley clearing out brush, but aside from them the only sound was the muffled voices of two men talking in the garage behind me.

The next site we visited was at 8644 South Constance Avenue in the Avalon Park neighborhood where Larry Lee was found dead on the sidewalk. This block seemed like a place where everyone knew their neighbors, tended to their yards, and looked after each other. The houses were large single-family homes. It looked like the house next door even had a pool in the backyard. There were people out doing yard work a little ways up the street and directly across from the site, two older ladies were talking to a young man on the porch. Lee was killed here, just a few lots north of busy 86th Street. X seemed eager to talk to people in this neighborhood, but no one asked any questions or even looked our way.

After photographing at the site of Lee’s death, X and I drove up to Hyde Park to get some lunch. X had heard about a good Chinese place called Nicky’s that he wanted to try so we took a break and sat down for a bit.

After lunch we went back south to 2031 East 70th Street where 30-year-old Jason Williams was shot and killed in the street at the corner of 70th and Chappel. I remembered this area from last summer and was none to thrilled to visit again. Last year we had to come back to several of the locations in the area because they were manned drug corners and were extremely sketchy. This corner was a little north of all the activity. There were large brick apartment buildings flanking the south side of the street. We could hear someone yelling from a window about half a block down. I photographed here quickly and got back in the car. As we were pulling away, X told me he felt very uncomfortable there. He is always very calm and cool, so he must have sensed something at the site.

From there we went just a few blocks south to 7145 South Cyril Avenue. Cyril is a tiny street that only runs the one block between 71st Place and 72nd Street. It’s one block off the main drag of Jeffery Boulevard. It took us a while to figure out how to access it because so many of the surrounding streets were one-way. When we did find it, we found the site where Melvin Terry was stabbed to death in his South Shore apartment. The apartment building was a beautiful old brick high rise with ornate stonework around the entryway and first floor windows. Across the street a young man leaned into a car talking to another young man. We hardly caught their attention.

The last site we visited was just one block south and a few blocks east at 7244 South Phillips Avenue where Dennis August was shot and killed in a CHA building on the afternoon of November 11th. As we were parking a group of young men walked past on the opposite side of the street. After taking a few photographs I noticed someone sitting in a parked car a little bit up the street. The boys that were walking by stopped at a building to the north and began shouting up to someone. Meanwhile another person appeared in the parked car. X let me know that I needed to hustle at this site because he wasn’t sure what the people in the car were up to. I took my pictures as quickly as I could and we were off.

X dropped me off at home close to 3 o’clock. It was a full day of picture making. Here is the map of locations I have left as of today.

Click for much better view

No comments:

Post a Comment