The exhibition will focus on his best known photographs from the 1970s, documenting the nightlife of Black clubs on Chicago’s South Side and the underground funk/blues and early disco scene. It’s a celebration of the style and culture of a bygone era.
As a white photographer working in black nightclubs, which was taboo at the time, Abramson was always welcome to photograph and became a functioning part of the club’s atmosphere, he gained recognition and respect for his photographs giving many of them away to the clubbers. He also embraced the sounds and the ambience of the nights. In his own words: “I had a ball”.
This series won Abramson a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1978 and launched his career as a photojournalist. Eventually the project resulted in a hardbound book, Light: On the South Side, including the Grammy and Mojo nominated album, featuring Chicago blues as heard in the clubs from the stage and the jukebox.
“A camera is a window through which a photographer interacts with the world, and it’s up to the operator to decide whether his camera will be a barrier or a mirror between he and his subjects. In the 1970s, Michael Abramson chose the latter path when he brought his camera to Pepper’s Hideout on Chicago’s South Side. Following in the footsteps of his acknowledged influence Gyula Halász, a Hungarian photographer better known as Brassaï who became the pre-eminent chronicler of the Paris nightlife he loved so much, Abramson initiated himself into the nightlife of Chicago’s predominantly black neighbourhoods. He was very much a part of the scene he documented on film, drinking, laughing, and dancing with his subjects into small hours and becoming as much a part of the atmosphere as the locals who frequented the same nightspots he did.” – Joe Tangari (Numero Group, 2009)
All works in the exhibition at MMX Gallery are vintage silver gelatin prints made by the photographer at the time there were taken. This will be the first time Abramson’s work will be shown in UK.
Michael L Abramson (1948-2011), graduated with Master of Photography from Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago in 1977. His work was regularly featured in Time, New York Times, Newsweek, People, Forbes, Harpers, Wall Street Journal and other popular American and international magazines. He was a highly sought after commercial portrait photographer and photojournalist. His subjects comprised celebrities, prominent stars from sport and the entertainment industry. His work was exhibited frequently since 1978, including a solo show at Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, in 2014 and in the same year the group show on American Photography since 1950 at Madison Museum of Contemporary Arts (US). His photographs are in major collections including the Smithsonian, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago History Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, the California Museum of Photography and various private collections.
Tales from the South Side. 1970’s Chicago Clubs
21 March – 6 May 2018