City Spaces: Photographs of Chicago Alleys

In 1996, photographer Bob Thall - walking to his car after completing some work in downtown Chicago - was stopped by something. I noticed this strange view down an alley , he later wrote. It wasn't the type of photograph I was doing that year, but the scene stopped me. I had one sheet of film left and thought, 'Oh, what the hell', and took the picture . Thall didn't print that picture for over a year. He had just published the highly praised The Perfect City , an investigation of the sweeping changes in downtown Chicago over a 20-year period - and he was still working on The New American VIllage , a look at the new edge city around O'Hare Airport that stands in such contrast to the urbanity of downtown. That single alley photograph, however, would stay with him, and eventually it would inspire the project that led to this, his third book: City Spaces is an exploration of the terrain of Chicago's alleys, where Thall finds remnants of the old city that he, and many other Chicagoans, once found so compelling. What these photographs transcribe are deep urban slits, afterthoughts to the gleaming modernist fronts of buildings. As Thall writes, Investigating these spaces reminded me of my earlier sense of the city as a myterious landscape to explore. My history as a Chicagoan, my history as a photographer, the history of the city, and, in a small way, the history of photography -without any plan or anticipation, these photographs brought these histories together for me . City Spaces should be a welcome addition to those interested in fine art photography, architecture, Chicago, and the urban scene - and should reinforce Bob Thall's presence as a leading artist and spokesperson for the city he loves.