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Untitled, from the series "The Garage" (1970/80)

A work made of gelatin silver print.

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  • A work made of gelatin silver print.




Valeria “Mikki” Ferrill
American, born 1937

About this artwork

After three years in Mexico apprenticing with photographer Ted Williams, Mikki Ferrill returned to Chicago, her hometown. While working as a freelance photojournalist, she began documenting the Garage, a makeshift music venue that popped up every Sunday in a car garage located at 610 East 50th Street. The owner, Arthur “Pops” Simpson, would transform the space and host jazz DJ battles in the afternoon, followed by live or recorded music jams that lasted until 8:00 p.m. and often spilled into the adjacent alley. Ferrill photographed these events regularly for 10 years, creating images that demonstrate a relaxed relationship between her and her subject—a close-knit community that saw the Garage as a space for the uninhibited personal expression of black identity.

Ferrill offered the following recollection in 2013: “On Sunday mornings, the cars were parked on the street and in came the tables, folding chairs, speakers, and turntables. At 1:00 p.m. the battle starts. One DJ plays a jam, all vinyl—a scratch was considered a disqualification—then the opposing DJ plays his jam. Their peers judged them. Most of the selections were very high tempo—Duke Ellington, Count Basie with Ella Fitzgerald, Jazz at the Philharmonic. Most people could not keep the pace. The battle continued until 6:00pm. Then came on current R&B music—Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, and James Brown. At times, there were live jazz musicians. At 8:00 p.m. the premises were cleared and the cleanup began. 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 [the people] themselves.”


Currently Off View


Photography and Media


Mikki Ferrill


Untitled, from the series "The Garage" (1970/80)


United States (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

Made 1970


Gelatin silver print


Image: 21.9 × 12.9 cm (8 5/8 × 5 1/8 in.); Paper: 25.2 × 20.2 cm (9 15/16 × 8 in.)

Credit Line

David Travis Fund

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

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