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Art Thu Aug 13 2009
"Isolated Building Study 42 (Chud's)," by David Schalliol, is the fourth in a series of five works to be featured during Chicago Week, a collaboration between Gapers Block and the Rockford-based arts purveyor Wall Blank. Each image will be available for one week as a limited edition print through Wall Blank. 10% of the proceeds of all sales will benefit the Chicago Artists' Coalition. Check back every day this week for a new piece by and interview with a Chicago artist.
"Isolated Building Study 42 (Chud's)," digital archival print, 20" x 13" inches, 2009
"'Isolated Building Study 42 (Chud's)' was taken on the South Side of Chicago in March 2009. I was out shooting for another project when the storm clouds broke and revealed the late afternoon sun -- I had to stop. Like so many buildings on South Ashland, this building has been converted into an automotive supply shop.
"The photograph is part of my Isolated Building Studies, a series exploring neighborhood change through the association between form and perception. Subject buildings are consistently framed to emphasize their relationship with their surroundings and to draw attention to the tension between their urban form and the absence of neighboring buildings. Examination of that tension is the starting point for a conversation about urban history and social change."
Interview with the Artist
Can you please tell us a little about yourself and your artistic background?
I was born in 1976 in Indianpolis, Indiana, where I spent most of my childhood. I received my bachelor's in social and political economy from Kenyon College in 1999 a master's in sociology from the University of Chicago in 2004. I'm currently involved in a lot of activities, including studying sociology as a Ph.D. student at the University of Chicago. While I don't only shoot for academic purposes, photography is integrated into some of my research activities. Because the sociological use of visual methodologies is still in its infancy, my process is extremely fluid.
I've always been interested in the arts, particularly drawing, watercolor and photography, so I took as many classes as I could through the end of high school. After that, my artistic experiences have been largely self-directed.
How did you start working in photography, and how has your relationship with it evolved over time?
Other than taking a few darkroom-oriented classes as a teenager, I don't have any formal photographic training. Instead, I started my photographic education in the early 1990s by burning through rolls of film documenting the Midwest hardcore/punk scene while exploring central cities and liminal rural/suburban places. Since then, I've been learning through the extension of those experiences and considerable experimentation, often driven by environment.
How does being in Chicago influence your artistic practice?
Chicago has been an enormous influence on my practice. My two major ongoing projects, the Isolated Building Studies and an exploration of the Chicago Housing Authority's Plan for Transformation, are deeply rooted in the physical landscape of Chicago. While I do include people in some photographs, most of my current images seek to explore community dynamics through the study of the built environment. Consequently, my Chicago images are considerably different than earlier photographs from -- for example -- Ohio, where I was more specifically interested in texture and human-nonhuman interaction. Those earlier themes are still present in my work, but my response to Chicago has made them tributaries rather than the main channel.
What sorts of reactions do you get from passersby when you take shots like this?
I'm particularly concerned about exploitation when taking photographs of people, so I didn't include any people in street photographs for quite some time. I do it sparingly now, in part to remind us that people inhabit the places I'm photographing. When I do take photographs with people in them, I make sure the documentation is conspicuous. As a result, people usually notice me well before they get to me. For one, I'm often photographing in neighborhoods where my ethnicity stands out, but more importantly, I make it clear I'm taking photographs. I stand in the middle of the street or the sidewalk, frame the picture and leave my camera to my eye. I occasionally say something about what I'm up to. Most people simply look at me and continue along; some stop and wait for me to take a shot; some ask what I'm up to. If there's hesitation, I don't take the photograph. Of course, in cases of portraits of people on the street, the dynamic is completely different.
What can we expect to see in the coming months?
I've spent much of the summer in Detroit, so I'm looking forward to re-immersing myself into Chicago in a couple of weeks. Along with that immersion, I'm working on a couple of projects I haven't shared on flickr yet, so I'm excited about refining them and introducing them relatively soon.
As for shows, six photographs from the Isolated Building Studies are currently hanging in Catherine Edelman Gallery's The Chicago Project III exhibition, and one smaller image will be available at Friday's fundraiser for the Chicago Art Department. Six photographs from other series are also viewable at the Chicago Diner. A couple more shows and a contribution to a book project are in the works too.
About the Artist
David Schalliol is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago, where he is academically and artistically focused on transformation, particularly as it is expressed through the physical manifestations of inequality. He is also the Visiting Assistant Professor of Social Sciences at the Illinois Institute of Technology and Managing Editor of Gapers Block. Visit his website or his flickr account for additional information and work.