Author: Vincent D. Johnson

How The Most Retweets I Ever Got Were On Out-of-focus Photos

When My Most Popular Photos Are Out Of Focus

They say you rarely go viral for the the posts you want.

To be honest I hardly consider the number of likes and retweets I received on one of my recent posts to be what anyone would consider viral, but given that it was a reply to another tweet and not an actual post to my account I think it ranks as one of the most interacted with tweets I’ve ever made. Which is why I’m sharing the story. Plus the end of this game was one of the more intense and controversial I’ve seen in 20 plus years of covering games.

 

Simeon’s Alante Brown (3) avoids a Nazareth defender during their 7A quarter-finals game, Saturday, November 10, 2018, in Chicago. (Vincent D. Johnson-Pioneer Press). This photo was one several photos submitted to the Chicago Tribune from my assignment to shoot the Nazareth vs. Simeon game.

 

The moment photographed above would lead to one of the more dramatic moments I’ve seen in high school football in a long time and what I thought was a highlight reel moment for a season, not just a game. Simeon, a Chicago Public School hosted Nazareth Academy in the Illinois quarter-final round for class 7A.

Simeon’s Alante Brown was a force on the field, who seemed to put his heart into every play and it’s always hard to see someone like that lose a game, but I could be saying the same thing about Nazareth’s Michael Love if the game had gone the other way. With around 30 seconds left in the game, I had lined up right on the goal line of the visitors side. With the score Nazareth (visitors) 34 – Simeon 27, this ensures I’ll be in position to photograph the tying score if it happens, or the victorious celebration if it doesn’t.

Brown finished off the run from the photo above with a leaping dive towards the end-zone pylon from about the 3 yard-line, which he touched the football to before landing out of bounds. I was quick enough to switch from my long lens to my wide lens as Brown raced towards me, firing off a burst of frames. Now a play or two earlier I had set the focus to the area I knew would be the location of any possible shot I was going to take, so somewhere in the rush to take the photo, I either instinctively hit the auto-focus button, or accidentally moved the manual focus ring, because my images were out-of-focus. The referee who was standing as close as I was to the play and was most likely watching Brown’s feet, where I was watching his upper body, ruled that he had stepped out of bounds around the 2 yard line. I looked through my my camera files and saw the photos out of focus, and was slightly relieved that what looked like the play of the game, and a photo I clearly should have had, in a sense did not matter now. Clearly I was wrong, or I wouldn’t be writing this post.

 

The scoreboard during Simeon’s final timeout and right before what turned out to be the last play of the game. Nazareth vs Simeon, Saturday, November 10, 2018, in Chicago. (Vincent D. Johnson).

 

Simeon would run the ball on the very next play and be stopped with no gain, or a loss of a yard. They called their last timeout and there was a debate about where the time on the clock should be. In the end it roughly 5 seconds was removed to bring the time in the game to 20.5 seconds. Nazareth would end up swarming Simeon’s Deangelo Hudson behind the line of scrimmage and with roughly 15 seconds to go there seemed to be some confusion from just about everyone on the field.

Nazareth’s Alex Carrillo, (5), Riley Theobald, (28) and Jeramine Baker, stop Simeon’s Deangelo Hudson (22) on what turned out to be the last play of the game, Saturday, November 10, 2018, in Chicago. (Vincent D. Johnson).

 

From a ball flopping around in the air, to Simeon players standing on the other side of the line of scrimmage, or moving frantically to get the refs to place the ball; one side sprung up with joy an elation, while a large number of players on the other side collapsed in agony. For some of the press on the sidelines, we were talking amongst ourselves, wondering just what did we see. The ending felt weird, but I want to be clear I’m not saying that in a way to take away anything from the kids at Nazareth, or tell the kids at Simeon they shouldn’t be heart broken. Each week in November I see some of the states most masculine young men brought to tears.

Nazareth celebrates after a nail-biter vs Simeon, Saturday, November 10, 2018, in Chicago. (Vincent D. Johnson).

 

Simeon’s Alante Brown was probably the most dejected player I’ve seen this year after the Wolverines loss to Nazareth, Saturday, November 10, 2018, in Chicago. (Vincent D. Johnson).

 

In a tweet by Simeon fans you can see a video of the play and my shooting from the hip action. That’s when I added these out of focus shots of that would-be touch down and when Twitter kind of did it’s thing. Like I said, not really viral, but the number of retweets on a reply is most likely the tops for me.

 

Like I said in the reply. Three frames is hardly a mountain of evidence.  At the end of the day, this score doesn’t win the game, it doesn’t even ensure overtime, as both teams had missed extra points. The best way to ensure a possible bad call from a referee doesn’t cost you a game is to be up by at least 10 points by the last two minutes.

Nazareth vs Simeon, Saturday, November 10, 2018, in Chicgao. (Vincent D. Johnson-Pioneer Press).

Nazareth vs Simeon, Saturday, November 10, 2018, in Chicago. (Vincent D. Johnson).

The lost legacy of 9/11; The images we never celebrate each year.

On 9/11 we all gave our own blood.

This is not a metaphor, thousands of us physically gave blood beyond the first responders and victims of 9/11 and I think the saddest legacy of 9/11 is each year we remember and relive the tragedies of that day, but forget the bond and togetherness we felt with each other in the days after.
News media and social media is filled with the greatest hits of 9/11 from video of the planes flying into the towers, or the “falling man”.
 
Yet in the hours and days after the attack we were all American and Bush was everyone’s president. Public Service Announcements played on TV instead of commercials. You silently nodded at the person sitting in the car next to you at the stop light. Violet crimes took a dramatic downturn in the weeks after.
My roommate and I, along with hundreds of other people waited for hours outside blood banks, most only to be turned away as the need for blood decreased as the death toll ruled out any large number of survivors.
But here we are celebrating the 17th anniversary of the attacks and once 9/12 comes around we quickly forget how black & white, blue & red, urban & rural, we all would have spilled our own blood for the other. Now it feels we are closer to spilling the blood of each other more so than anytime since 1861.
Maybe Bin Laden did win.

Long line on September 11, 2001 of people waiting to donate blood (photo courtesy of Lifesouth Community Blood Center).

Shooting High School Sports; Why You’re Not Always Going To See The Best Photos

In High School Sports, The Best Photos Don’t Always Make It To The Paper

In the world of professional sports photography you live & die by your ability to get the pivotal moment of a game captured in your frame. We all watch the games on TV but forget there are at least 6 video cameras at any given game now days, but most high school games only have one still photographer per publications. Sometimes I’m the only photographer at a game. So when that moment happens sometimes it’s just luck, but as I’m fond of saying “luck is all about how you position yourself.”

Rich East's Vashawn Sims

A Rich East player sits in shock as his three pointer to tie the game up missed, Friday, January 26, 2018 in Park Forest. (Vincent D. Johnson-Daily Southtown).

 

Towards the end of a close game like the basketball match I shot between Rich East and Crete-Monee, you have to pick a side to shoot from. Unlike football where one team clearly has the ball at the end, basketball can flip in an instant, which means for a game winning shot you might not be able to see the face of the shooter. So picking the right side can be pure luck, especially when your shooting both teams.  Basketball, like most sports can have a game winning score happen some time before the final seconds, making the moment seem less climatic later as it was 30-60 seconds before, not including multiple timeouts. Game winning free throws are also never much of a highlight. All this doesn’t even get into when that moment is hampered by refs, players, coaches, or fans getting in-between you and the moment. Other times the action moves so fast you can’t get the right lens in time. So whether it’s “the catch”, “The goal”, “the celebration”, or the myriad of other terms and moments from tears of joy to tears from injury, you want that shot and your editors expect that shot, in-focus, perfectly framed, with peak action, or emotion… Except when they don’t.

As trendy as it is to slam journalists these days, prep-sports writers typically follow a few rules, and I’ve noticed through 25 years of submitting images to photo editors that these rules apply to photos as well.

  1. A loss is never blamed on a player and to an extent the coaches. (A player’s fumble didn’t cost their team the game, but the recovery helped the other team win.)
  2. Players don’t have bad games, as much as opposing players have good games.

With game coverage usually being geared towards both teams this is fairly easy to do. So even when I have a great shot of a player from the losing team, it’s perfectly logical that that photo won’t run. The image above of a Rich East player watching in disbelief as his last second shot misses and the opposing team corrals the rebound, getting the ball and the reaction in one shot is just pure gold in my mind, but I knew it would never run in the paper, or maybe even an online gallery.

Crete-Monee’s Malik Hardmon (25) dunks against Rich East, Friday, January 26, 2018 in Park Forest. (Vincent D. Johnson-Daily Southtown).

The shot above is another story. It’s peak action of an amazing dunk from the winning team. It didn’t run either. Behind the scenes I think this shot may have been cut because not only was it from the first quarter, it featured a star player who had an entire feature article written about him run during the week, it also shows an opposing player getting “posterized” and remember, both teams are part of the local coverage area. Lastly, the writer was specifically looking for a photo of the team’s leading scorer. Which unfortunately if you remember me talking about “luck being about where you position yourself? Well, I hardly had any decent shots of him in the first half and given that I was shooting both teams, I was shooting from the home team’s side for the second half.

So here is the photo that ran in the paper and online. A shot of the star player taking a free throw. It’s a nice clean shot and one I get of every player coming to the line, because you never know when you’re going to need it. Now in no way am I second guessing the editors. This is just how it goes sometimes. A game ending reaction shot like the one above can be a rare thing, but I knew it wouldn’t run, which is why I’m showing it here.

Crete-Monee’s Tyrese Hunt shoots a free throw, Friday, January 26, 2018 in Park Forest. (Vincent D. Johnson-Daily Southtown).

Remember that part about “being in-focus”? Well this is the next frame of the first image and is slightly crisper, but the emotion in the first really works for me.

A Rich East player sits in shock as his three pointer to tie the game up missed, Friday, January 26, 2018 in Park Forest. (Vincent D. Johnson-Daily Southtown).

 

A few of the shots I had of #10 that didn’t make the cut.

Crete-Monee’s Tyrese Hunt (10) tries to get away from Rich East’s full court press, Friday, January 26, 2018 in Park Forest. (Vincent D. Johnson-Daily Southtown).

Crete-Monee’s Tyrese Hunt (10) shoots a three against Rich East, Friday, January 26, 2018 in Park Forest. (Vincent D. Johnson-Daily Southtown).

Why My First Front Page Photo Was A Letdown

Why My First Front Page For A Major Daily Newspaper Was A Huge Letdown

Or, how incredibly awkward the situation created by the Chicago Sun Times photo staff layoff was.

First I want to go on record, I’m completely grateful that I was able to get a front page photo in a major daily newspaper. So I’m not complaining here. I know plenty of people who would kill to have one of their photos appear just once on the front page of a publication that had a circulation of over 200,000 at the time, myself included, but this isn’t about getting there, it’s about what this particular instance felt like once I was there and why it took me almost 4 years to even mentioned it happened.

 

I have several copies of the Sun Times front page that day, unfortunately they are all in a storage locker so you’ll have to settle for this screen shot I took that day. Sadly by 9am the Sun Times story had already been liked & tweeted so much it was probably on its way to being one of the most widely viewed photo I have taken.

 

So it has to be noted that if you are a freelancer for a paper of just about any size, chances are your photos will never see the front page. Maybe front of the sport’s, or local sections, but not the front page. Any story big enough to make the front page will have a staff photographer there. So unless your assignment turns into a major news story by circumstance (say Gabby Gifford’s press conference where she was shot), or you’re freelancing from an international news story out of their normal coverage area (say Ferguson for Washington Post, or Syria for the New York Times) chances are you’re not going be on the front page. Well all that changed in May of 2013 when the Sun Times laid it’s entire photojournalism staff off.

Myself, like many of the freelancers for the Sun Times were in a real awkward spot after that happened. Would we continue to go on taking assignments for a publication that had just systematically laid off many of our colleagues whom we considered friends? Some of us had been stringing since we graduated college; applying for openings at the paper’s smaller weekly publications, but just never making the cut in a market that had been shrinking since the early 2000s. Most of us were very supportive and happy for those we knew who did make the jump from freelance to staff. Myself I was passed over at least 3 times while freelancing since 2001.

Now I’m not going to get rehash the details of the layoffs, but I will say that from the moment of the layoff announcement, stating that reporters & freelancers would now provide the visual content for the Sun Times, myself and at least two dozen others felt like we where put squarely in the cross fire between supporting ourselves and staying loyal to our colleagues.

On social media the photojournalists pretty much travel in the same groups, there’s really no division between staff & freelancers, so it didn’t take long before I started seeing posts calling for freelancers who took assignments to be black listed in the profession. As a reference, the assignments I took the previous year added up to just about 100 and accounted for most of my photojournalism income and at least 25% of my yearly income and I knew several photographers who worked much more frequently than me. Thankfully there were only a few voices calling for us being black listed and to the credit of those who were laid off, they understood just what it would mean to some of us to have to choose turning down work for good and the unfairness of just signaling out the freelancers when writers would also be schlepping photos and the corporate higher-ups where the ones who made the call. In the end most everyone knew that regardless of what the freelancers did it was a corporate decision that likely wouldn’t change and overall a sign of the times in journalism. Basically most saw it coming, just not so sudden.

What A Shit Sandwich Tastes Like

After the layoff not much changed with freelance assignments. As a matter of fact I felt like I was shooting less than before. Also, what I was shooting was different. Gone were the feature stories about statue dedications at fire stations, or “local woman opens a store after her brownies are big hit.” Now it was all sports, or large events, stuff your iPhone couldn’t compete with. I also started to shoot more minor league and college teams, where before it was mostly high school sports. The big change came when myself and another freelancer were tapped to shoot the fall sport’s profile photos (a half day gathering of local gridiron and other fall sports top players).

But while all that was going on it was mostly for the smaller publications and not the Sun Times itself. However, all that changed on September 1st when I got a call to photograph the location of a new Whole Foods which was going to be a front page story. Now for those of you not in the photojournalism world, there are few type of photos that you do on a regular basis, but you kind of grit your teeth and get it over with; waiting around a court house all day to get a photo of a high profile defendant as they leave, or enter the building; shooting a press conference; and shooting a building mug shot.

It’s been 5 months since a bunch of my friends & mentors, some of whom I’m really close with, were laid off from their jobs. It’s been about 17 years that I have been freelancing on and off without ever having a front page photo in even a small publication and now I’ve been given an assignment to shoot a story for a big publication and not only is it a building mug shot assignment, but to top it off there is no building. I’ve been sent to one of the roughest parts of the city to shoot what is basically a vacant parking lot.

So here it was. The moment so many of us dream about. No matter what it was you never forget your first published photos and you never forget you first front page, but there I was sitting around with like ten copies of the paper, texting my mom and a few other people, but essentially quite on Facebook & social media. Unable to bask in what should have been a happy moment, because not only was my assignment the equivalent of the school janitor spreading sawdust on puke, I was also very aware that it’s an assignment that I would never have been in the running to get before and that so many former staffers were still struggling & bitter about the layoffs.

I still did the best I could

Knowing that this would be my first front page I did spend about an hour walking around photographing this vacant lot from several different vantage points. Below is a look at some of what I took. The 5th photo was what ran on the front page. In a bizarre twist I actually got my second front page photo the following summer, along with my first front page story, as I was asked to write an article about a tragic murder I had witnessed. With a little more irony, one of the few assignments I had last year for the Sun Times was again to be a cover photo of the 1985 Chicago Bears reunion, however after covering the part of the event open to the press, my photos were moved to the inside pages replaced by an iPhone photo Walter Payton’s son Jared had put out on social media.

it’s been almost 4 years since the layoff and that empty lot is now a shiny new Whole Foods. I still have yet to even think about framing a copy of the front page. I had a total of about four assignments for the Sun Times in the last year. Many of the former Sun Times photographers are still photographing, but it was a call to early retirement, or another profession for some. I would also be remiss to not speak of the several staff photographers & photo editors who were laid-off, or took buyouts in the year, or two before the purge.

 

Chicago, 9/3/13–The 63 acre vacant lot on the Northwest corner of 63rd Street and Halsted St. is the proposed site of a new Whole Foods Market. | Vincent D. Johnson/for Sun-Times Media

Chicago, 9/3/13–The 63 acre vacant lot on the Northwest corner of 63rd Street and Halsted St. is the proposed site of a new Whole Foods Market. | Vincent D. Johnson/for Sun-Times Media

Chicago, 9/3/13–An old parking lot for shopping that was once in the area is all that is left on the 63 acre vacant lot on the Northwest corner of 63rd Street and Halsted St. is the proposed site of a new Whole Foods Market. | Vincent D. Johnson/for Sun-Times Media

Chicago, 9/3/13–Kennedy-King College lies on the otherside of the 63 acre vacant lot on the Northwest corner of 63rd Street and Halsted St. which may someday may be the site of a new Whole Foods Market. | Vincent D. Johnson/for Sun-Times Media

Chicago, 9/3/13–An old parking lot for shopping that was once in the area is all that is left on the 63 acre vacant lot on the Northwest corner of 63rd Street and Halsted St. is the proposed site of a new Whole Foods Market. | Vincent D. Johnson/for Sun-Times Media

Chicago, 9/3/13–The 63 acre vacant lot on the Northwest corner of 63rd Street and Halsted St. is the proposed site of a new Whole Foods Market. | Vincent D. Johnson/for Sun-Times Media

Chicago, 9/3/13–The 63 acre vacant lot on the Northwest corner of 63rd Street and Halsted St. is the proposed site of a new Whole Foods Market. | Vincent D. Johnson/for Sun-Times Media

 

Highlights from Leo vs U-High basketball regional finals

#OnAssignment; Highlights from Leo vs. U-High Chicago basketball playoffs

 

IHSA 2A Regional Final Turns Into Upset.

It’s hard to score when all your shots are getting blocked. Brothers Jameel (left) and Mohammed Alausa (right) will probably set a blocked shot record for U-High and maybe the tournament. Friday, February 24, 2017 in Chicago. (Vincent D. Johnson-Chicago Tribune).

 

For the second game in a row I’ve been pleasantly surprised with an exciting game when the Chicago Tribune/Daily Southtown sent me on assignment to cover Leo Catholic High School against University High Chicago in a 2A regional Final. Leo, an always strong basketball school was the favorite as the number one seed on the 10 team regional and U-High was seeded fourth, but may have been overlooked being a school widely known for its academics.

Either way it’s hard to score when all your shots are getting blocked. Brothers Jameel and Mohammed Alausa (photos above) will probably set a blocked shot record for U-High and maybe the tournament if they make a run into the sectionals. I counted at least 3-4 blocks for Jameel in this game alone and the IHSA’s website lists the 2A career tournament record at 13 and 9 for a single tournament.

It’s not a surprise that as the season wears on for most high school sports that the games I see start to get better. As a former editor-in-chief I know picking the games to cover early in the season can be a crap shoot as you have little to go on past the result of the previous year and pre-season coach interviews end up being a mixed bag of not wanting to brag, or put a target on your back, to being a little unsure of your underclassmen’s talent level and possibly sandbagging it.

Read the Daily Southtown story here.

More images from the game can be seen here.

Leo’s Dachaun Anderson drives to the hoop against U-High, Friday, February 24, 2017 in Chicago. (Vincent D. Johnson-Daily Southtown).

Leo’s Khalid Manney (00) tries to take a shot while being defended by U-High’s Oliver Maciak (22) and Jameel Alausa, Friday, February 24, 2017 in Chicago. (Vincent D. Johnson-Daily Southtown).

Leo’s Kevin Drumgoole, (left) tries to console Mario Pittman after their region final loss to U-High, Friday, February 24, 2017 in Chicago. (Vincent D. Johnson-Daily Southtown).

Super Moon Over Chicago

Super Moon over Chicago’s Willis Tower

See the photos I stitched together to create a short time lapsed video of the November 2016 Super Moon over Chicago. media copyright of Othervertical, Inc. http://www.Othervertical.com

 

Sure it’s been awhile since the Super Moon rose up over Chicago, but when I was photographing it I had an idea last minute idea for a time lapse video and I’m just now getting around to doing it.

What you’re seeing is actually a collection of about 140 photos stitched together in two different ways and then made in to a short video. With a little more forethought I might have been able to create something a little nicer, but considering this was a first attempt at this technique I’m mildly happy with the results. Watch the video then I’ll explain below the short version of how I did it.

 

How I made the Super Moon Time Lapse

So if you know anything photography, chances are you have to adjust your camera to compensate for light, or lack of light. With the moon basically being a large white object that is getting direct sun light, you’re essentially photographing an subject matter that is out on a sunny day. You’re photo after all is a direct result of light reflecting off of an object. So no matter how good your camera is, when the sun has set and is no longer shining on the objects you want to photograph that are in front of the moon (buildings, ground, sky, so on…) you’re going to have to pick between the moon having detail, or your foreground showing up. See the 3 photos below as an example.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first image you can see the light sin the building, but the moon is just a bright white light. The second image, the moon looks perfect, but you can’t really make anything else out. So what I did was a technique photographers call bracketing. Which is where you set your camera to take 3-7 photos in order that range from being over & under exposed to where you want your photo. The ideal setting would have one the under exposed frame capture the moon at it’s best light and the most over exposed frame getting just some hints of the night sky and other faintly lit objects, with the middle frames getting the buildings and other lit objects in different states of light & dark.

Once you have the set of images you can layer them on top of each other and create a composite image that shows the best lighting for all 3-5 frames. This process can also be done via an HDR (high Dynamic range) process, which is actually what I choose to do with the time lapse since I was working with multiple photos.

So once I processed the 140 or some bracketed frames in roughly 46 new HDR images I placed them in a time lapse sequence and you get the time lapse video I showed up above as a result.

 

 

Highlights from St. Joseph vs Fenwick

Highlights from St. Joseph vs Fenwick

It’s always fun to get a good assignment to shoot. Yet so many times when you cover a game that is suppose to be a good match it doesn’t live up to the hype. Especially early on in the season. The St. Joes vs Fenwick Catholic League Championship was a rematch of a game Fenwick won easily easrlier in the year, but turned into a thrilling overtime affair before the Friars came away with the crown.

You can read more about the game in the Oak Leaves/Chicago Tribune coverage. Below are a few outtakes that I didn’t get submitted.

Fenwick's Jamal Nixon is foulded by St. Joseph's Jordan Byrd, Friday January 17, 2017, in Wilmette. (Vincent D. Johnson-Pioneer Press).

Fenwick’s Jamal Nixon is foulded by St. Joseph’s Jordan Byrd, Friday January 17, 2017, in Wilmette. (Vincent D. Johnson-Pioneer Press).

St. Joseph's Jason Towers (22) and Ahmad Muhammad (14) celebrate after the Muhannad's game tieing three pointer at the end of regulation, Friday January 17, 2017, in Wilmette. (Vincent D. Johnson).

St. Joseph’s Jason Towers (22) and Ahmad Muhammad (14) celebrate after the Muhammad’s game tying three pointer at the end of regulation, Friday January 17, 2017, in Wilmette. (Vincent D. Johnson).

The anatomy of a dunk (Fenwick’s Jacob Keller)

Dunking in high school is not the rare feat it once was in the 80s, or 90s. However capturing it isn’t always easy even if you’re ready. I purposely sit to the right of the hoop just inside the 3-point line for most of a game. The reason being is most players are right handed and shooting from the opposite side would most likely result in their arm blocking a good photo of the dunk. Unfortunately it’s also the favorite spot of most refs to call the game from and cheerleaders to cheer from. So it’s always sports photography gold for me when I do get that fast break and it ends with a picture perfect dunk.

Fenwick vs St. Joseph, Friday January 17, 2017, in Wilmette. (Vincent D. Johnson-Pioneer Press).

Fenwick’s Jacob Keller finishes off a fast break with a dunk, Friday January 17, 2017, in Wilmette. (Vincent D. Johnson).

 

Fenwick vs St. Joseph, Friday January 17, 2017, in Wilmette. (Vincent D. Johnson).

Fenwick hoists the Catholic League championship trophy Friday January 17, 2017, in Wilmette. (Vincent D. Johnson).

 

Want more photos?

See photo outtakes from the Fenwick/St Joseph game that weren’t submitted to the Tribune/Pioneer Press

A Year After A Murder

Photo copyright of Vincent David Johnson. http://www.VincentDavidJohnson.com

Mementos & balloons sit outside the apartment where Steve Allen Tate & Jeremy Hunter will murdered on Valentines Day 2016. Photo copyright of Vincent David Johnson. http://www.VincentDavidJohnson.com

 

Murders in Chicago can easily be overlooked on an individual basis, unless of course its circumstances fill a certain narrative one is using to rail against the system, or the community where this is happening (see screen shot below). However the motives and the lives that it touches aren’t always going to follow the script so many claim it does.

Take for example the double murder of Jeremy Hunter & Steve Tate. Both in their mid twenties living in an apartment building right down my block. While I may have passed by them several times I never knew who they were until the day the street was filled with Police vehicles on the morning of Valentines Day 2016.

I’ll admit it, as I walked down the block to photograph the scene the normal narrative slips through your mind. Drug deal gone bad. Gang dispute. Maybe even a lovers quarrel, but what really happened was a bit weirder.

The Story in the press

You can read story covered in the Chicago Tribune, or I can shorten it for you.  A man named Marquise Hollerway (22), who was on parole for a Valentines day robbery he committed in 2013, when he was 19, murdered both Tate & Hunter in their apartment at roughly the same day and time he had robbed another apartment just 3 years before. In 2013 Hollerway, had lived just 3 blocks away from where Tate & Hunter lived 2016, but the 2013 robbery happened in a different neighborhood.

Of course after the initial murder, you never really hear this part of the story. Heck I didn’t until this morning when I started doing some searching.

What the story doesn’t say

The story has no information on whether Hollerway knew either man before hand, or if the 2016 incident was a robbery attempt. What it does say without saying it is that crimes that may have seemed unsolvable are being solved and that the murders in this city aren’t always what people on different sides think they are. Despite what’s in the news in the days after, it is not always everything that is known.

Behind the names & balloons

I think when we hear the names of those killed, or see the cross & balloons marking a murder, it doesn’t have the same effect unless your connected. So here’s what I want you to visualize. Most of us have been close to tragedy; a small child drowning at a local lake, a car accident taking a parent away from your child’s friend, the list goes on. When you see that white cross on the highway for someone you knew, or go to that candle light vigil, try hard to remember that emotion and when you see  that makeshift memorial on the news, remember that emotion and imagine those grieving and imagine how hurtful it would be if someone politicized the death of someone you knew.

 

Photo copyright of Vincent David Johnson. http://www.VincentDavidJohnson.com

Grieving friends, or family of Jeremy Hunter, or Steve Allen Tate. Photo copyright of Vincent David Johnson. http://www.VincentDavidJohnson.com

 

Despite police finding the suspected murderer and no clear evidence of illegal activity by the deceased, almost all of the 20 comments on the Tribune article have nothing to say about how justice might have been served in this tragic loss of live.

 

tribune article with racist comments

I find it ironic that while one person isa talking about “legal gun owners” another person is advocating to take guns away from people based on race. Is the argument that if they owned a gun they would have been able to protect themselves?

 

Ten Years Gone – Stateway Gardens & Robert Taylor Homes – CHA Deomlition

Ten years ago this April I took these photo as the last of the Robert Taylor/Stateway Garden housing complexes were taken down at about 38th & State St. If you look closely you can see Comiskey Park in the background of some of them with its lights on.
Images from teh last build of the Stateway Gardens / Robert Taylor Homes on 38th & State St. Chicago.
 

This February will be 11 years since I moved into the Bronzeville neighborhood and I have seen a lot of changes since then. While many plans stalled during the housing bust of 2008, the amount of housing development going on right now is kind of crazy. The area between the South Loop & Hyde Park is being revitalized and it’s nice to see friends who would have never thought about moving south of Roosevelt all of a sudden discovering how much home they can buy or rent, how affordable it is and how accessible the city is via the L and Lake Shore Drive from here. The area is roughly as far south as Lincoln Park is north, but a very wide open, no stop light stretch of Lake Shore Drive makes it feel much closer.

While there are still many complaints about the relocating of the complexes’ residents, very few will argue that the idea of housing thousands of impoverished people in what was essentially warehouses to keep the poor separated from the rest of the city was a good idea.

In an ironic, almost slap in the face turn of events, the first housing complex in the CHA State Street 4 mile stretch from 26th to 51st street was the Harold L. Ickes Homes, built in 1953. It was named after Chicago’s NAACP president & former U.S. Secretary of Interior Harold L Ickes one year after his death in 1952. Ickes who fought for African-American civil rights, and opposed the idea of warehousing the poor in such buildings would end up having his name on one of the more notorious projects in Chicago behind Robert Taylor & Cabrini Greens.

Even though I lived just across the highway in Bridgeport before 2007, I will say I spent very little if any time in the area when the buildings were still active. As an example, while I live on the Northside in the mid-1990s I would often drive, with very little fear, down Division Street through Cabrini Green, which often was the go to reference for bad areas of the city. The Robert Taylor and Stateway on the other hand were downright terrifying to me. It was a 2 mile stretch of pure bleakness, where colors consisted of black and varying forms of gray and stories of success had a better chance of escaping from a blackhole than there.

 

Images from teh last build of the Stateway Gardens / Robert Taylor Homes on 38th & State St. Chicago.

Images from the last build of the Stateway Gardens / Robert Taylor Homes on 38th & State St. Chicago.

Images from teh last build of the Stateway Gardens / Robert Taylor Homes on 38th & State St. Chicago.

Images from the last build of the Stateway Gardens / Robert Taylor Homes on 38th & State St. Chicago.

Images from teh last build of the Stateway Gardens / Robert Taylor Homes on 38th & State St. Chicago.

Mixed income development was being constructed in the shadows of the last housing project to be torn down.

 

Images from teh last build of the Stateway Gardens / Robert Taylor Homes on 38th & State St. Chicago.

Images from the last build of the Stateway Gardens / Robert Taylor Homes on 38th & State St. Chicago.

Images from teh last build of the Stateway Gardens / Robert Taylor Homes on 38th & State St. Chicago.

Images from the last build of the Stateway Gardens / Robert Taylor Homes on 38th & State St. Chicago.

Images from the last build of the Stateway Gardens / Robert Taylor Homes on 38th & State St. Chicago. U.S. Cellular Field / Comisky Park home of the Chicago White Sox in teh background.

Images from the last build of the Stateway Gardens / Robert Taylor Homes on 38th & State St. Chicago. U.S. Cellular Field / Comiskey Park home of the Chicago White Sox in the background.

Images from teh last build of the Stateway Gardens / Robert Taylor Homes on 38th & State St. Chicago.

Images from the last build of the Stateway Gardens / Robert Taylor Homes on 38th & State St. Chicago.

Images from teh last build of the Stateway Gardens / Robert Taylor Homes on 38th & State St. Chicago.

Images from the last build of the Stateway Gardens / Robert Taylor Homes on 38th & State St. Chicago.

Images from teh last build of the Stateway Gardens / Robert Taylor Homes on 38th & State St. Chicago.

Images from the last build of the Stateway Gardens / Robert Taylor Homes on 38th & State St. Chicago.

Images from teh last build of the Stateway Gardens / Robert Taylor Homes on 38th & State St. Chicago.

Images from the last build of the Stateway Gardens / Robert Taylor Homes on 38th & State St. Chicago.

Images from teh last build of the Stateway Gardens / Robert Taylor Homes on 38th & State St. Chicago.

Images from the last build of the Stateway Gardens / Robert Taylor Homes on 38th & State St. Chicago.

Loading...
X