Photo: John H. White, courtesy of Chicago Photography Center
Just a month after the Chicago Sun-Times fired its entire photojournalism department, 18 of the former photographers are back to show new work at Chicago Photography Center’s exhibit See What You Missed, co-curated by former Tribune photographers Charles Osgood and José Moré. Featuring work by Pulitzer Prize–winning legend John H. White and creatives like Brian Powers, the exhibit (opening July 14) showcases a variety of new images from the photographers. Osgood talked to Chicago about the exhibit and the future of photojournalism.
How did this project come about?
Karen Egerer, the chairman at [Chicago Photography Center], decided to do something [with the former Sun-Times photojournalists]. I teach there and so does José, so she brought us on board along with Heidi Kohz, CPC’s director. Initially, [Karen] was going to have a panel discussion and then that kind of transformed into the exhibit. We had a meeting with some of the Sun-Times photographers about three or four weeks ago to see if they liked the idea and they did.
Initially the idea was to use pictures that [the photographers] had already shot, but since those are all owned by the Sun-Times, we thought, “Well, wouldn’t it be great if they did something new?”
What was the decision-making process for the photos like?
The original idea was to do “A Day in the Life of Chicago.” It turned out that the day that was chosen, not everybody could do it. The rules were changed and we said, “Okay, shoot anything you want between June 29th and July 3rd.” Everything had to be turned in by midnight of the 3rd.
[The photographers] turned in anywhere between two and ten pictures. They could choose one that they really liked and wanted to have in the show, period. José and I would choose another two. We were coming up with three [photos] for each.
What can you say about the exhibit’s appearance?
One area is going to have pictures of all the photographers. These will be black-and-whites that were taken for CNN about three weeks ago by Brian Powers [a former photographer for the Sun-Times]. Then all of the prints that are exhibited are going to be of two sizes, small and large.
What are the photos of, exactly?
A couple of [photographers] were at the Pride Parade. A couple of people were down at Millennium Park. Some people photographed the Blackhawks celebration.
Were there any in the process that stood out to you as maybe the most striking photos?
I just should not answer [that].
What do you hope people take away from the exhibit?
Mainly, it’s just a way to honor the Sun-Times photographers and to highlight what a tragedy this was not only for them personally, but for photojournalism. I hope they all get hired. The whole idea that anybody can take a picture—anybody can type words too, but not everybody is an author. Anybody can do anything—I can build a house, but I don’t think you’d want to walk into it.
It takes a lot of years of experience to understand anything, whether it’s photojournalism or writing or being a reporter. [Malcolm Gladwell] said, “You want to be a genius, you just need to practice for 10,000 hours.”
Where do you see the Sun-Times heading without these photographers?
To me, it’s just an indication of where they’re heading, which isn’t a good place, I’m afraid. This seems like a last-ditch effort to save [the Sun-Times]. It’s not like it’s a shock that they let off photographers. We’ve been talking about it for between five and ten years. ‘How’s it going over there? What’s the latest?’ The fact that a photographer would get laid off is not surprising. The idea of cutting the entire department is shocking.
For photography fans, here is a list of the photojournalists who will be on display for the next two weeks:
John H. White