Thanks to TimeOut Chicago magazine for their feature on the Western Ave. Project. Read about it here.
While the exhibit and book are being developed, I'm now offering special limited edition prints for sale.
(images are printed on Archival Matte Paper and will last for 200+ years, according to the manufacturer)
Click here to make your selection.
The Western Ave. Project
"Can the street become an inhabited space? Yes, when it becomes a space for celebration."
That was the challenge presented by theologian, poet, author, social activist and photographer Thomas Merton in his essay "The Street is for Celebration." This is the challenge I present through the Western Ave. project.
The idea to walk and photograph the entirety of the longest street in the world came to me in 2004.
At the time, Western Avenue was to me "a space for celebration" because of its world-record status. That extraordinary quality is what first attracted me. I photographed the entire street, nearly 25 miles, five blocks at a time from March 2004 until January 2007. During the journey, I realized that along Western Ave. there is something deeper to be celebrated. Western Ave. is extraordinary because it's ordinary. It's a street along which people drive, work and live. Everyday Chicago life lives on Western Ave.
Chicago is celebrated for world-class architecture, the lakefront, shopping, historic ballparks, charming neighborhoods and other "pretty" aspects of a world-class city. These are the many attractive "faces" of Chicago. Western Ave. is the less-celebrated part of the city's body. This street is, however, essential and worthy of celebration. It is Chicago's backbone. With this exhibit, Western Ave. becomes a space for celebration of the seldom celebrated -- everyday life of everyday people and the space they inhabit.
A Personal Connection:
Something I learned from my father after I began creating these images: growing up, his family's livelihood depended on Western Avenue. His father, my grandfather, Robert Benjamin Kessler, was a Chicago Transit Authority street car conductor on the Western Ave. route. As I was walking and photographing, I thought about the journey he made every day of his working life. Even after the street cars were retired but before he did so, he continued his daily journeys driving the CTA Western Avenue bus route.
Notes on the images:
I created this project by walking Western Ave. in Chicago. I began at 127th St. and walked in five-block increments over a three-year period. I created hundreds of images. From those, I edited the collection to around 80 final pictures. The selection here on the website best captures the spirit of the project.
The Western Ave. Project is currently seeking a home for exhibition and publication.
Click here to view a selection of the images.