As part of the Gage Gallery’s mission to be Chicago’s premier space for contemporary critical social photo-documentary, they’ve brought a new exhibition to Roosevelt University called Crime Then and Now: Through the Lens of the Chicago Tribune. The Chicago Tribune, the last of the big Chicago papers, pulled dozens of crime scene photos from their archives and have juxtaposed them against photos taken by current staffers on the beat. The subject matter is as relevant as ever today.
When you first walk into the gallery there is a warning sign at the door that the content might not be suited for everyone. To the left hang the old crime scenes, all in black and white and almost all of them shot with old magnesium flash bulbs. Many are of famous gangsters and murder scenes, such as the infamous St. Valentine’s Massacre. To the right, photos from today’s staffers adorn the walls in full color with heavy blue and red tones from squad cars, usually taken without a flash.
The underlying differences between the two time periods come into focus through these images. The vintage crime scene photos were taken a lot closer to the victims, where as the more recent images were generally taken from a further vantage point. You can tell just by looking at these stills that there was more cooperation between the media and the police decades ago compared to today. Furthermore, all the victims in the old crime photos are Caucasian, where as the victims in today’s crime photos are all either African-American or Latino.
Only one photo from the old set of images actually shows a large amount of human emotion, while the rest seem almost clinical in their presentation of these horrific events. In contrast, the photos from today’s journalists are heavy set with emotions, almost every single one of them.
The exhibit brings with it more questions than answers regarding race, crime, and violence in society today, especially with the recent deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner still lingering in many of our minds.
Crime Then and Now: Through the Lens of the Chicago Tribune is curated by Michael Zajakowski and Tyra Robertson and will be on display at the Gage Gallery at Roosevelt University (18 S. Michigan Avenue) until to April 11, 2015.