About this artwork
Art Shay is one of Chicago’s great photojournalists. With more than 25,000 published photographs—including more than 1,000 magazine covers—Shay has shaped the way we see the world on the printed page.
Born in the Bronx, Shay took up photography at the age of 12. He served in the U.S. Air Force in World War II, and his first published photographs—of an American military air disaster—were printed in a September 1944 issue of the weekly magazine Look. After the war, he joined Time and Life magazines, writing stories that he occasionally supplemented with his own (uncredited) images. In 1948 he moved to Chicago and took up photography full-time. In the nearly seven decades since, Shay’s camera has documented the famous and the downtrodden, the international and the local, the newsworthy and the intimate.
Of particular significance in Shay’s career was his long friendship with the writer Nelson Algren (American, 1909–1981); the two met in 1949 and collaborated on several books and other projects. Together Shay and Algren roamed Chicago’s neighborhoods to document the lives and culture of the city’s down-and-out, and the photographer’s many pictures of the writer on those forays combine to form a multifaceted portrait.
— Permanent collection label
“Camera atop the eye or under my coat, I followed my best friend through the purlieus of “his Chicago” for around nine years. Nelson Algren, Chicago’s earthiest writer, felt that he himself was one of these sad people—in the same way Dickens and Dostoevsky had done before him. The Human Comedy indeed. And the center of the comedy for Algren and me and my hidden camera was often this impromptu courtroom at the police headquarters at 11th and State. There the minor dramas of little lives that scraped against the law were adjudicated. “Wasn’t you here a few months ago for annoying a little girl, Sam?” said the lieutenant. “No, your honor,” came the outraged reply, “I was here for molesting a little boy.” “Ninety days” said his honor, “and if I see you here again it’ll be ten years!”’
- Currently Off View
- Photography and Media
- Art Shay
- Police Show Up at HQ, 11th and State, Chicago
- United States (Artist's nationality)
- Made 1949
- Gelatin silver print
- Image/paper: 23 × 33.5 cm (9 1/16 × 13 1/4 in.)
- Gift of the artist
- © Art Shay