Uptown Portrait by Robert Rehak

This is a little unusual for this blog, but still relates to the topic of Media Impacts and Unintended Consequences. As many of you know, this is one of two blogs I publish. The other is a blog for my personal photography. It contains my favorite images from 45 years of lugging around cameras. About three months ago, I published several images from a series of documentary portraits I took in a Chicago neighborhood called Uptown, starting in 1973. They went viral. I’ve received 3.2 million hits in the last three months, with virtually no publicity. That’s one unintended consequence.

Another unintended consequence is a book. It’s called Uptown: Portrait of a Chicago Neighborhood in the Mid-1970s by Robert Rehak. As a result of all the interest in the photos, I became convinced that there was a market for the book. It will be coming out in a couple weeks.

A third unintended consequence was all the feedback I got on the images. People wrote me about what happened to the people in them. The notes created a fascinating longitudinal study. They gave me additional details on times, dates, places and events and told me what happened to the people I photographed 40 years ago. As a result, the book turned into a collaborative history project.

I’ll be unveiling Uptown: Portrait of a Chicago Neighborhood in the Mid-1970s at the Chicago Public Library in Uptown on November 21 at 4PM. The event is sponsored by the Chicago Book Expo and the Chicago Public Library.

I hope you can attend. I would like to thank all the readers in person who wrote to me about the images and helped with the book. They made it a much richer experience.

Uptown: Portrait of a Chicago Neighborhood in the Mid-1970s by Robert Rehak

Uptown_CoverIt’s been a month since I’ve posted on this site. I’ve been busy completing a new book referenced in the previous post.  The book is Uptown: Portrait of a Chicago Neighborhood in the Mid-1970s by Robert Rehak.  You can now pre-order it on Amazon.com or BarnesAndNoble.com.

The coffee-table-sized book (9.5″ x 13″) will be in bookstores before Thanksgiving. Published by Chicago’s Books Press, an imprint of Chicago’s Neighborhoods, Inc., the book contains 272 pages, 250+ illustrations, plus an introduction and captions that put the images and the place in historical context. For photographers, the book also contains notes about the equipment and techniques used when taking the photos.

Uptown: Portrait of a Chicago Neighborhood in the Mid-1970s by Robert Rehak is a time capsule from 40 years ago. It shows you what life was like in one of Chicago’s most diverse and densely populated neighborhoods. Although the book specifically focuses on one neighborhood in Chicago, almost every large city in America has a neighborhood coping with similar challenges.

When I posted several of the images on my photoblog, bobrehak.com, they immediately went viral. I’d like to thank all the readers who took their valuable time to write me with notes of appreciation and to help flesh out details that make the book a much richer experience. They provided the inspiration for this book.

Viewed as a book, instead of a website, these photos become even more powerful. The images are much larger and higher resolution, revealing details not visible on the Web. The images are also arranged in a more logical sequence – when putting together the website, I was responding to reader requests. Finally, when you see all of the images back to back, as opposed to opening them one by one, it’s easier to see the forces that were shaping this fascinating neighborhood and the way ordinary people adapted to them. Below are two sample spreads from the book.

uptown-spreads-for-websitePhotographing in Uptown for four years made me much less judgmental and much more understanding of the troubles other people face. I experienced firsthand the plight of parents forced to chose between shoes and food for their children. I wish every senator and congressman had the opportunity to walk the streets of Uptown in the 1970s. It might have changed some of our national priorities.

Once again, thank you all for all your help. I hope you enjoy the book and am eager to hear your feedback.