Thursday, October 2, 2008

Through the lens of a legend

South Loop gallery unveils photos by Chicago Defender photographer


Robert Sengstacke had always been artistic. In kindergarten, his teacher showed off his talents to his parents. The revelation that he could shoot photographs came a bit later, in eighth grade, during a class trip to Washington, D.C.

"It was in the spring, there were colorful flowers," Sengstacke, 65, recalled. "I took this picture, I took another. When I got through, it kind of blew my mind. I went through the whole cycle."

By age 16, he had his own studio in the basement of his house, and was snapping shots of teenagers and publishing them in the Chicago Defender, the daily newspaper owned by his family, serving as a touchstone throughout his career as he traveled in and out of Chicago, New York, Memphis and other cities.

Photographs from Sengstacke's vast portfolio chronicling Chicago's African-American communities and the civil rights movement are on display at Lusenhop Gallery, 73 E. 16th Street, in the South Loop. The exhibit concludes next Saturday, Oct. 11. The showcase marks the first time many of Sengstacke's works has ever been shown, said gallery owner David Lusenhop, who organized the exhibit.

"It was about showing a significant photographer whose work is under-appreciated. He was a fine-art photographer who came to photo journalism," Lusenhop said.

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