From the Vault of Art Shay: Occupy Northbrook Court
The revolting Chinese students of 1989, warming up for their bigger push in 2005, were inflamed by the stirring image of a slim youth who blocked a row of tanks coursing down Cangan Boulevard aimed at quelling their "disturbance" in expansive Tiananmen Square. At least 100 kids would be killed by the truly revolting military in that action and many more in 2005. Most of the world's true marketplaces have been in various kinds of duress since then- including Northbrook Court, three miles from here.
The classic news photo of the singleton's resistance, resurfaced recently as a theme picture in New York's Zuccotti Park, which Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer lamely pointed out, was not Tiananmen Square. "The cops hit my legs with a baton and then they shoved my face into the ground," student Max Santos contradicted.
We take you to Cairo's Tahrir Square, where short months ago millions had gathered to seek voting rights and other freedoms, and to successfully overthrow Mubarak. And take you there again in the last news cycle, where the crowds are taking on the ruling military. Of course the crowd is at this time mostly Islamists who seek to impose religious over military rule. The marketplace, as economists are fond of perorating, usually decides the details in stuff like this.
"A fine mess indeed, Ollie," as Stan would say, scratching his butchered limey crewcut.
I had been in many market places in my travels: Israel; Chicago's Maxwell Street; LA's Farmer's Market to find lox and bagels on a Sunday morning: and at hastily tented stands in San Francisco. Even in Boston, on a Kennedy shoot, where I learned more than I wanted to know about sticky buns. But I thought it would be neat to document my very own. I still hadn't got over the terrible fact that Life had died and would no longer run those long photo essays on cowboys, office girls, country doctors... space that fotogs all over the world dreamed of filling.
When ground broke for Northbrook Court in 1976, I was a busy photojournalist for Time Inc. magazines and many others. I had friends and employers in high places at Ford, GM, Baxter Labs, National Can, Blue Cross, CBS, ABC. 3M and so on. One year not too far gone, I had done eight annual reports and turned down two more. I had published some 50 kids and sports books and hardly had time to finish a play about my old WWII bomb squadron led by Col. Jimmy Stewart.
(I never flew with him, but he debriefed us after tough missions. "Now, Navigator, I'm not questioning your observation; just wanna make sure you actually saw the squadron's bombs hit the damn tank factory, works or whatever they called it." )
So, starting with the ground-breaking picture, I began to cover Northbrook Court. Segue to shoppers; to idlers; to would-be swains; and to a headless, armless kid preceding his Lord & Taylor mom out the door.
There was Alfred Eisenstaedt at Northbrook Court helping a downtown gallery sell some vintage prints. His famous sailor-kissing-girl shot on VJ day went unsold for a bargain $10,000. I wanted to buy it but thought worse of the idea, cheapskate that I am. A copy now goes for $30,000.
But Eisie I once carried his gear when I was a reporter would have autographed it to me personally. Something like: "Best wishes Art did you say Art or Bart?" And just keep shooting like I did. Only thing aside from his talent I envied him for (two things, really): When Leica made their classic MP Leica in the 50s, they gave number "1" to Eisie. (I had numbers 50 and 240) . They're worth $40,000 each today. Of course I sold them years ago.
(The other thing I envied him for was reputedly fighting off Sophia Loren after a cover shoot.)
I have sequences of myriad Santas placating whole armies of kids: sleeping/nursing tots; shopping mavens trailing strings of credit cards from a small purse; perfume samplers; older couples.
I imagine with the ability to shoot high quality stuff through your cell phone one of today's or tomorrow's shooters, with no need to hide his or her camera, will do the next Tiananmen, Zuccotti, Tahrir, or even Northbrook Court far better than I.
If you can't wait until this time every Wednesday to get your Art Shay fix, please check out the photographer's blog, which is updated regularly. Art Shay's book, Chicago’s Nelson Algren, is also available at Amazon.