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Homan & Iowa – Humbolt Park

As of Monday, I had one more location to photograph in order to have an image of each of the 172 sites of a homicide in the City of Chicago between Memorial Day and Labor Day of 2010. Most of the project was completed by November of 2010, but a few more homicides crept into the statistics as the following year proceeded. X and I shot those new locations the following summer and re-shot some of the other locations for various reasons. This last site was one we stumbled upon while fact checking and making sure we covered everything.

The location was at 3359 West Iowa Street in Humbolt Park. The homicide never made it into the media, so I have very little information about what happened there. I do know that the victim’s name was Carl Anderson and that he was 27 years old when he was killed. He was shot while he was in a vehicle at the intersection of Iowa and Homen. I do not know if the car was parked or if he was driving at the time.

Having worked on the West Side for a long time, X knew the spot and was weary of going there without an on-duty police officer. We talked about getting someone in a car to come and meet us, but didn’t have much luck the past few trips out. We finally cleared our schedules and were set to go and photograph site on Tuesday.

In the meantime, Elizabeth Brackett from WTTW’s show “Chicago Tonight” got in touch with me and wanted to do a story about Killing Season. They arrived and filmed at my apartment on Monday. As I was telling Elizabeth about the project, I mentioned having one more site that I would be photographing tomorrow. Her face lit up. She asked if it was possible to go and shoot it while they were with me. I explained to her that we hadn’t been there yet because it was a pretty rough corner, but that I’d check in with X and see if he could help. It was overcast and was beginning to rain, so X told me to go over there and see what it looked like. If it was busy, he told me to go out to Chicago and Pulaski and he’d call someone to come in and meet us.

I got my camera and tripod and got in the car with Elizabeth. The camera man followed in his van just behind us. As we drove further west, the rain began to come down harder. When we arrived at the address, it was very quiet. I noticed a few men sitting in an open garage just out of range of the rain. As we walked up to the site, one of the men came out and walked along side us. He told me that we should be careful and that this was a dangerous place. He told me that there were lots of drugs and that people were getting killed. I nodded and told him I knew. I asked him if he lived around there. He pointed to the building on the corner behind him and said he’d lived in the neighborhood for 57 years and in that building for 30 years. As he was saying all this a young boy no older than 10 walked by all alone, wet from the rain, sobbing to himself. I set up my equipment and began to photograph while they filmed for the show. The man stood on the corner in the rain and watched the whole time. After we were there for about 10 minutes, people began to come out. A few people seemed to be neighborhood residents interested in what we were doing there and a few appeared to be hypes coming out to buy drugs. Whether we were there or not, the corner was coming back to life.

X was concerned for us, so I texted him and let him know we were back and that everything was fine. We set up a time to go back there the next morning so that I could properly photograph the location.

We headed there at about 10:30 the next day. It was a beautiful morning, so everyone was out enjoying the last of summer. The block that was so quiet in the rain yesterday was bustling with people. There were 3-4 young men across the street sitting on chairs just off the sidewalk chatting. One of them was getting his hair done, there were several young men on the porch of that house as well. Up the street a group of teenage boys flooded out onto the sidewalk from another front porch. The three men that were in the garage yesterday were in the backyard of the same house today.

X pulled up across from the location. When he got out, the man that I talked to yesterday walked up to him and said, “You’re not here to buy drugs, are you?” X said he was not and told the man that he worked here. The man told X he would call the police. X, who had his badge and gun showing told the man he was the police. The man finally noticed the badge and laughed, thanking X. He said that the police had been doing a good job cleaning the area up and that things were getting better, but it was still a bad corner. He chatted with X about the neighborhood while I photographed, and mentioned that he did remember someone being killed there. As I was finishing up, a man and a woman were walking down the street and they stopped to talked to the man talking to X. They were really friendly and asked what I was doing, and then tried to buy a cigarette off of the man. The man, knowing X is a cop and knowing that selling individual cigarettes is illegal, volunteered to just give them a cigarette. I was happy to see that in this place that was supposed to be the most dangerous corner that we visited were a lot of nice, friendly people and that there were only a few bad people around.

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You are now entering a time machine that is going to take you back to the morning of May 5th 2012.

X (via text message): I’m awake. Should be there right around 7:30.

Me: Cool. We’re up.

X (at 7:30): Okay I lied. I’ll be leaving here shortly.

Me: All good. See you soon.

X arrived to pick L and me up at about 8 o’clock. Armed with the short list of remaining sites to photograph, we headed south. We hopped on the Dan Ryan and got off at 75th Street heading west to the site where Credale “Sandy” Woulard was killed on June 21st of 2010. 28-year-old Woulard was a transgendered woman who went by the name Sandy. She was found shot near a church on 75th and Halsted. When X and I originally shot this site, we shot 801 East 75th Street, the address that was in the news as well as other sources that we came upon, but after looking over the images and the story again, I realized that we couldn’t have been in the right place. Sandy Woulard was killed in front of a church. Our location was on a busy corner in front of a currency exchange with no church in sight. After some investigation of Google earth, I figured out that Woulard was killed at 801 West 75th Street, where there was a church that matched the description in the news release, not at 801 East 75th. The address brought us to the 1st Corinthian M.B. Church. The church was a circular brown brick and glass block building. Above the front entrance on Halsted was a mosaic, with a scroll that read, “It’s All in his hands,” flanked by two hands in prayer, and a torch. The church sat on the corner of busy Halsted and quiet residential 75th Street. Just to the north up a grassy hill were train tracks with freight cars awaiting use. Cars careened south under the viaduct that had a colorful mural welcoming us to the Auburn/Gresham neighborhood. As I photographed, L took video and X told her stories about the area. After photographing from several different angles, I spotted a white metal cross nailed to one of the trees along the sidewalk next to the church. It was made of two pieces of scrap metal and looked like it was weathered from age. I imagine that it was a memorial in rememberence of Woulard.

Our second location was 6252 South Ashland where 30-year-old Andre Tucker was shot and killed at 3:55 am. It’s hard to tell from the data that I’ve collected, but another man by the name of Devonte Patterson might have lost his life in this incident as well. The address brought us to a sidewalk in front of Pak Submarine Shop on Ashland just a half a block north of the 63rd/Ashland Green Line stop. Even at the early hour that we arrived, Ashland was bustling with traffic, both car and foot. The location was on a major truck route and while I was photographing I found myself bound between the gated front of the store and the repeating metal patterns on the sides of the trucks in the right lane. Two store fronts to the north was a cell phone store that had an odd number of customers for the early hour, which also made it difficult to make a good picture within the compressed space. Eventually X pulled his car into the right lane to block traffic so that I could stand in the street to photograph without worrying about oncoming traffic. I finally got the image I was looking for.

This is my frustrated look

The next site on our list was one that I visited before with A and H in 2010. I was unhappy with the image and wanted to re-shoot. The incident happened at 1601 West 59th Street, a very busy intersection with a shopping center on the northwest side, M&M Liquor Store on the  southwest corner and a gas station on the southeast corner. There were also two busy bus stops, so it was going to be a challenge getting a quiet people-less image of the site. It was here that 26-year-old Deandre Murphy’s car came to a stop after he was shot while driving a few blocks to the west. As we approached the intersection, there was an immediate issue. A 30-something year-old man in a purple t-shirt spotted us and began waving us down. At first, X thought he was just trying to sell us drugs, but upon further observation, he realized that the guy was hyped up on drugs or was just plain crazy. X overshot the location in hopes that the guy would lose sight of us and lose interest, but the more we circled the intersection, the more he chased after us and tried to flag us down. X and I have been in some dangerous and scary situations, but X is always comfortable because ultimately, as bad as some of the dudes are that we come across, they have common sense. They are not going to mess with the police for no gain and they mostly want to do their thing without any trouble or extra attention. In this case, X was visibly uncomfortable. He knows he can protect himself and us from normal goings on, but not from someone that is acting irrationally, so he was extremely hesitant about stopping. We finally found a spot where I could get a few images that were out of eye shot of the man in the purple shirt. X also brought me around a few different angles to photograph, but made sure that I remained in the car. This was an idea we had in the past to get the images I needed of extremely dangerous areas, but we managed to always get out and spend time without issue. This time I did my own kind of drive-by shooting. X would pull up and stop and I would photograph from inside the car. While I am still not extremely excited by the results, I am not sure if I will ever have the opportunity to take a good picture at that intersection.

This was about the moment we caught his eye. 

Click for a much larger view.

After this shoot, I only have one more location to photograph before the photographing portion of this project is complete.


Me: Hey X!I’m just looking through my pictures and see that there are still a few spots I need to photograph/re-photograph. Can I enlist you for one more time out?

X: I can def do another. I’m off a few days next week. What works for you?

Me: Great! Would you be opposed to my friend coming out and videotaping? I’m trying to get grant money and need documentation. Let me know if that’s be cool by you.

X: Totally fine!! I’d rather not be in it unless it’s better for you. Looks more dangerous if you have security, lol.

Fast-forward to 7:30 am on Saturday morning. My friend L, who was coming out to take some video, and her wife R stayed overnight at our place on Friday so that we could make it out the door bright and early together. When 7:00 am came around I knocked on their bedroom door and L and I stumbled around gathering all the things we needed before exiting into the bright morning sunlight and climbing into X’s car and heading west.

Our first location was 522 North Leamington where James Gardner was shot and killed in the early morning of August 9th in 2010. He and Another man were inside a vehicle when two or possibly three suspects got out of another vehicle and approached them. At least one of the suspects fired several shots in their direction. The victims tried to drive away, but their car crashed into a parked car. This location was a re-shoot. While looking through my images, I noticed that the address on the house behind the spot that I photographed before was 422. The last time we photographed on this block we were welcomed by a man dragging a suitcase down the middle of the street. This time all was quiet. In contrast to the bright yellow house at 422, 522 was a two story gray stone. The building had a brand new wooden front porch with a wrought iron fence that contained it and the adjacent property. The parking space in front where Gardner was killed was empty. As a I was photographing a woman down the block expressed interest in what we were doing. She yelled down the street that she wanted to be in the movie. X told her we were just photographing. She seemed a little disappointed.


Our next location was another re-shoot at 4034 West Jackson in West Garfield Park. On the evening of August 31st in 2010, 18 year-old Anthony Carter went out to the store to grab something to eat. He was almost home when shots rang out. He was shot multiple times in the back. When police officers arrived at the scene they found him unresponsive. The first time I visited this location, X pointed out the two drug spots, one on each corner on the west side of Jackson and Pulaski. They were in competition with each other. When we arrived again, only one of those spots could be identified and it was being run bare bones. As I photographed the sidewalk where Carter was killed in front of a gated lot next to a gray stone, X and L watched a man try to get out of our range of sight. It appeared that he was trying to buy dope, but was afraid of getting near my camera. 

Former “tied house” at 24th & Wastenaw

read more about “tied houses” here

The last spot we visited was another re-shoot in the Little Village neighborhood. The immediate area which formerly appeared to be a gang haven was amidst a huge transformation. The median at 24th and Washtenaw that was etched with Latin Kings grafitti was torn up, the house on the northwest corner that previously had “fuck da police” written above the door in black marker was now a children’s home and 24th Street was being torn up to be repaved. It was just a half a block west at 2718 West 24th Street where Jennifer Alvarado was shot and killed while in a vehicle. She was a passenger in the front seat of the vehicle as it was headed west on West 24th Street about 5:30 p.m. on September 6th when another vehicle pulled up at about and fired shots.

After successfully re-shooting three locations, X dropped L and I off at my house where everyone was still asleep. It was as though we never left.

The New Trend is Up

Homicide spreadsheet for January 2012 (click for larger view)

Chicago ended the first quarter of 2012 with 118 homicides, the worst first quarter for homicides in nine years, continuing a troublesome trend that began late last year. That is a 57% increase from the 75 homicides recorded in that same period in both 2011 and 2010. Nonfatal shootings totaled almost 490 in the first three months of 2012, up 37% from a year earlier.

The city recorded 50 homicides in March, up from 22 homicides in March 2011 and 31 in March 2010.

Criminologists contribute the rise in homiceds to the unseasonably warm weather this winter. Commenting that in better weather people are outside more which inevitably leads to more opportunity for conflict.

The worsening violence comes as the Emanuel administration touts its efforts to combat gang crime and add officers and resources to some of the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods.

To combat violence in two of Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods, Police Superintendent McCarthy saturated “conflict zones” in the Englewood and Harrison police districts with additional officers early this year as a long-term strategy.

But the early results appear mixed. Through April 1st, homicides fell to 6 in the Harrison District on the West Side, down from 9 a year earlier. But killings almost doubled in the Englewood District on the South Side, jumping to 15 from 8. Nonfatal shootings rose sharply in both districts, however.

During one particularly violent weekend last month, 49 people were shot — 10 of them fatally, including a 6-year-old girl as she sat between her mom’s legs on the family’s Little Village front porch.

In the last two weeks of March, the violence continued unabated. The department’s statistics show that 26 people were killed and more than 80 nonfatal shootings occurred from March 19 through April 1.

Here are the breakdowns for a few of the most affected communities as of today:

West Englewood – 10
Chicago Lawn – 10
Austin – 7
South Shore – 7
South Lawndale – 7
Englewood – 6

Dot Mapping Segregation in Chicago

Yale assistant professor Bill Rankin, proprietor of Radical Cartography addresses segregation in Chicago. He believes that block mapping is inaccurate. As Rankin points out, solid-color maps “visually reinforce political ideals… of ethnic homogeneity.” His solution is to create census-based “dot maps,” an old but infrequently used form of cartography. His award-winning dot-map of Chicago makes a great companion to the other maps of the city, because you can see how neighborhoods break down by race. Let’s let him explain:

See more on Bill Rankin’s Radical Cartography website.

Hayt School

I came upon these images today and realized that I never shared them. In the spring of 2011 while Killing Season was showing at Mes Hall in Rogers Park, I got to do a workshop with a group of young men from Hayt Elementary School. They were part of a club at their school for African-American and Hispanic boys. Since the recent influx of hispanic families into the area, there have been some issues with violence between the two groups. This club was aimed at mending that rift.

After checking out the exhibition, we had a discussion about violence and “the broken window theory. ” the kids were broken up into two groups to go out and photograph with disposable cameras. They were asked to take pictures of things that could be indicative of violence in the neighborhood. The images that they took were fantastic and insightful. Here are a smattering of some of my favorites.

“Crime Unseen” on Gather Round the Mic

Evan Mather wrote an interesting article about “Crime Unseen” on Gather Round the Mic. He wrote a little something about each of the artists in the show. Here’s what he said about Killing Season:

“All of the photographers involved in the show take different approaches to looking at the intersections between crime and photography, though all, in some way, look at its effects. Those effects can be quite disparate, though, varying in the specificity of the crime, and the focus on either the human or societal impacts of the crime. The most expansive approach comes from Krista Wortendyke in her piece Killing Season: Chicago. Between October 2010 and January 2011, Wortendyke photographed the site of every homicide in the city, often days or weeks after the crime was committed. These photographs are arranged chronologically on a wall. In times when there were many murders, the photographs rise high, while gaps between crimes leave gaps, creating the image of a city skyline. The images, absent of context, are exceedingly banal, combined with the unique display method, all serve to illustrate how violence and crime disappears into the make-up of a city, and can become as integral to its composition as its buildings.”

Click here to read the whole article.

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