Published: February 20, 2001
Wayne Miller’s Vintage Photographs on View at Lee Gallery
WINCHESTER, MASS. – Shortly before the end of the Second World War, photographer Wayne Miller was awarded a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation to produce “The Way of Life of the Northern Negro.” A new book of these photographs, entitled Chicago’s South Side, 1946-1948, has just been published, and its vintage images will be shown at the Lee Gallery March 1 through April 27
A large number of African Americans migrated from the South to the North during the war. Miller focused on the African-American community of his hometown on the South Side of Chicago. He was eager to create photographs that would depict what he refers to as “universal truths” in order to help people of all races come together and see that we are not all that different. He once said, “we may differ in race, color, language, wealth, and politics. But look at what we all have in common – dreams, laughter, tears, pride, the comfort of home, the hunger for love.”
Throughout this body of work Miller clearly portrays all of these qualities through his moving and poignant images. In the faces of his subjects one gets a sense of fear, despair, joy and hope. From the photographs of patrons laughing and dancing at the 45th Street bar to a jubilant bride after her wedding, Miller captures moments of happiness in a community often encumbered by hard times.
Along with these images of hope and joy are those that reflect the worries and troubles of individuals in their daily lives. In one, a wife holds the family’s bills and the husband sits with a drink in his hand; in another, a mother stands with her back to the camera as she looks out of a window and wonders how she is going to support her newborn alone. These 50-year-old, black and white testimonies of the South Side of Chicago tell a story of everyday life within a tight-knit community.
Miller was a member of Edward Steichen’s World War II US Navy Combat Photo Unit, an associate curator for the famous The Family of Man exhibit and book at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, a contract photographer for Life magazine, and a member and former president of Magnum Photos. He also co-authored Baby’s First Year with Dr Spock, and authored The World is Young.
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