Sometimes taking a walk, people watching, and breathing in the atmosphere of the city can be inspiring in-it-of-itself. For photographer Jimmy Fishbein, the Fulton Market served as a fixed locale to inspire and direct a work of art. Standing in one place and talking to passers-by about their occupation and life in Chicago, he captured a simultaneous sense of individuality and collective personhood. These individuals are active agents, a part of something greater--many working components which breathe life into the metropolis of Chicago.
What is it that captures us about the human form and individualism in photography, film, art, and media? There is certainly a preoccupation with individual-centered projects like Humans of New York, Dancers Among Us, or Touching Strangers. They have become highly popularized for sure, but there is more to it. It seems as though these types of photo projects evoke a sense of similarity. We look at a photo of a worker like Willie Covington, holding a packed lunch and a cup of coffee and we see a shared experience. Even if the viewer has very little in common with the subject, most of us has purchased a cup of coffee or packed a lunch for our workday. The possibility of similarity ranges from a modest cup of coffee to possibly a shared occupation, age, location, and comparable lived experience.
As the blog, Have Camera Will Travel, points out:
Not only does each photo come with challenges and opportunities, but as the Chicago Neighborhoods project suggests, a fixed location can also show what an individual person contributes to a photo, to a moment in time. Photos taken at the Fulton Market vary drastically even though their backdrop is more-or-less the same. The feel, image, sentiments, and thoughts-evoked change depending on the subject. The story is ultimately written differently in the eyes of the viewer and each subject is given a life of their own.
While individuality is certainly captured in these photos and viewers are able to construct their own backstory for each figure, there is also a sense of collectiveness and cohesivity. All of the people who were photographed are themselves a part of the space, and although differences may be great, location is shared. Asian Journal comments, “A big city is a lot of things: a place to find work, get famous, to disappear in or maybe even a place to find yourself and ponder your purpose in life.” This statement aligns well with what these photographs express: that a city is a shared space to carry-out individual goals, dreams, and ambitions--but it is also a place to make ends meet through work, and for some, possibly disappear into a sea of many. Yet, Jimmy Fishbein’s series, even if just for a moment in time, brought out these individual lives and made them visible. He captures individuality in a large urban city--the unique wheels that turn to make the Neighborhoods of Chicago lively, loud, noticed, and explored. Within this shared space people can disappear or become noticed, and regardless of the path chosen, all who inhabit this city can indeed call it home.
What are your thoughts on individuality, space, and life in the city of Chicago? Let us know in the comments section below--we would love to hear from you! (& if you like it, share it!)