Photographer Captures '70s South Side Chicago Nightlife

Michael Abramson's 35-year-old photos published in new book

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The "Light: On The South Side" photographer and others reminisce about a poignant time in the city's history.

    Click here view a special page dedicated to this project.

    Young photography student Michael Abramson moved to Chicago in 1974 to attend the Illinois Institute of Technology.

    But it's what he found in the neighborhoods outside his classroom that left a lasting impression.

    He started hanging out at legendary South Side nightclubs and lounges like Perv's House, Pepper's Hideout, The High Chaparral, The Patio Lounge, and The Showcase Lounge -- and of course, he took his camera.

    "I was excited about photography, and I ended up walking into some of these places almost by happenstance and thought that this was a gold mine for photography. I wish I could say there was more of a thesis behind that, but it wasn't, it was just the excitement about photographing this scene," Abramson said.

    What he captured was a stunning glimpse into the nightlife scene and culture of South Side black Chicago.

    It took 35 years to find a national publisher for the photos, but the wait was worth it, in the form of the just-released book "Light: On The South Side."

    "I feel fortunate, because the Numero Group, who put it together, did it with such a sense of respect, and a sense of importance, and their idea of putting the music into this document and the way they packaged the whole thing ... I don't think it could have been done better,"

    Light: On the South Side (Trailer)

    [CHI] Light: On the South Side (Trailer)
    Check out a musical montage featuring pictures from a book showcasing South Side Chicago nightlife in the mid-'70s.

    Abramson, now 61, has had a successful photography career, shooting for publications such as Time, Newsweek and the New York Times, and teaching photography at IIT and Columbia.

    But the photographs he took as a student hold a special place in his heart and reveal a distinct look at South Side Chicago's party culture, much different than the glitzier side of the disco culture.

    Light: On the South Side (Trailer)

    [CHI] Light: On the South Side (Trailer)
    Check out a musical montage featuring pictures from a book showcasing South Side Chicago nightlife in the mid-'70s.

    "My identification with this world ironically was the pictures I saw of Paris in the '20s and '30s, so when I walked into this scene, I photographed it, and over the many years, the 35 years, I think I felt a sense of responsibility to these pictures in some way. It wasn't like I had this theory or intellectual idea, I just intrinsically had a responsibility to these pictures to get them in fixed form, and published," Abramson said.

    Click here for more information on purchasing the book.