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The Picture-Taking Lady: Mikki Ferrill at the Garage

The event was a word-of-mouth happening. The people, the music, and just the atmosphere became my spiritual inspiration. They called me "The Picture-Taking Lady." I covered the walls of the Garage with pictures of themselves.          —Mikki Ferrill

While working as a freelance photojournalist, Chicago-based photographer Mikki Ferrill began documenting the Garage, an improvised music venue that popped up every Sunday in a car garage at 610 East 50th Street. 

Ferrill photographed these events regularly for 10 years (1970–80), creating images that demonstrate a relaxed relationship between her and her subjects—members of a close-knit community who saw the Garage as a space for the uninhibited personal expression of black identity.

Listen to a recording of Michele Madison, who appears in Ferrill's photos, as she describes the experience and history of this legendary venue through the perspective of someone who was there.


Mikki Ferrill's work appears in the exhibition Never a Lovely So Real: Photography and Film in Chicago, 1950–1980, a poetic survey of photographers and filmmakers who worked in neighborhoods across the city from the 1950s through the 1970s. Check it out before it closes October 28.

All photos by Valeria “Mikki” Ferrill from the series The Garage (1970/80): Untitled, 1970/80. Gift of Valeria "Mikki" Ferrill; Untitled, about 1970. National Docent Symposium Endowment; Untitled, 1970/80. Through prior gifts of Flora Stieglitz Straus and Emanuel and Edithann M. Gerard; Untitled, 1970/80. Gift of Valeria "Mikki" Ferrill; Untitled, 1970. David Travis Fund.