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Police Show Up at HQ, 11th and State, Chicago

A work made of gelatin silver print.
© Art Shay

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  • A work made of gelatin silver print.


December 1949


Art Shay
American, 1922-2018

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!”’
—Art Shay


Currently Off View


Photography and Media


Art Shay


Police Show Up at HQ, 11th and State, Chicago


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 1949


Gelatin silver print


Image/paper: 23 × 33.5 cm (9 1/16 × 13 1/4 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of the artist

Reference Number



© Art Shay

Extended information about this artwork

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