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Center for American Places
Over the past four decades, Bob Thall has turned the view camera on the American city with increasing sophistication and adventurousness. In the process, he has earned a place within the rich tradition of America's critical landscapists, a lineage that stretches back to Timothy O'Sullivan and Carlton Watkins. From the sublime topographics of Chicago's skyscraper Rockies to the obsessively attentive micro-ecologies of urban alleys and the bland expanses of exurban townsites, Thall has staked a claim as one of the most rigorous of cultural analysts. Now he has turned to the edge of things, to Chicago's lakefront, the boundary line where the everyday meets the absolute, in pictures at turns bafflingly graceful, religiously quiet, and sternly austere. This is masterful work by an artist still enamored with the possibilities of his time, his place, and his medium."-Peter Bacon Hales
An iron-gray slate on a cold and blustery day, a respite from the summer heat, the engine of the city's notorious blizzards: Lake Michigan is an integral part of the landscape of Chicago. Bob Thall has been photographing the skyline and streets of Chicago for over thirty years, and here in At City's Edge he chronicles the twenty-five-mile shoreline where the asphalt meets the inland sea.
Thall's stark yet rich images take viewers from the Evanston border on the North Shore down to 100th Street on the South Side, documenting the natural scenery, architectural structures, and people that populate the coastline. From the lakefront parks to summer beaches to the Air and Water Show, Chicago enfolds Lake Michigan into its urban character, but Thall's images make clear that the lake remains a dynamic and powerful force, with nature and civilization clashing at its rim. At City's Edge brings the lakefront to life in all its complexity, chronicling in its elegant visual sequence the sand-covered city beaches, the rock-studded shoreline, the running paths, and the buildings built along this unique intersection.
Thall writes, "Since the age of five or six, I've spent much of my life at the beach, not only in the summer, but throughout the year. I can't imagine my life in this city without Lake Michigan nearby." At City's Edge redefines the shores of Lake Michigan as a vital element in the urban landscape of Chicago and reveals the complex forces that shape the lakefront as one of Chicago's most public communal spaces.
About the Author
Bob Thall is professor in and chairman of the Department of Photography at Columbia College Chicago. He is also the author of The Perfect City, The New American Village, and City Spaces: Photographs of Chicago Alleys. His photographs are in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, and the Museum of Modern Art, among others.