ABOUT THE ARTIST
James P. Blair studied at the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. As a freelance photographer, Blair has had commissions from the U.S. Information Agency, Time, and Life magazines. He spent over thirty years on staff at National Geographic. His photographs are represented in the permanent collections of the National Portrait Gallery (Washington DC), the Museum of Modern Art (New York City), the Portland Museum of Art (Maine) and the Carnegie Museum of Art (Pittsburgh). Since retiring from the National Geographic Society in 1994, Blair has continued to photograph and teach.
ABOUT THIS BODY OF WORK
This is an exhibit that began with my senior project assignment while a student at the Chicago Institute of Design. I was asked to photograph a family, on behalf of the Chicago Housing Authority. In an effort to address the issue of urban decay, the Housing Authority was building new high-rise apartments that would hopefully provide a cleaner, safer living environment for Chicago’s predominantly black families. While the family of Armister Henton awaited news that they would be given a space in one of the new buildings, I would document their daily life. For two months, I arrived every morning at their current home, in an otherwise abandoned and condemned building on Chicago’s south side. I captured the daily routine and family interactions, and in a pivotal moment, understood all at once how lonely it was to be poor, how a single photograph can tell an entire story, and that I wanted dedicate myself to being a documentary photographer.