• Identification00235613
  • TitleDescriptive inventory for the Ron Gordon visual materials, 1971-2016
  • PublisherChicago Historical Society
  • Language
    • English.
    • English
    • Spanish
  • RepositoryChicago History Museum Research Center 1601 North Clark Street Chicago, IL 60614-6038
  • OriginationRon Gordon Ron Gordon Photography Studio
  • Date1971-2016
  • Physical Description68 linear feet, including approximately 7,783 images (77 boxes)
  • Location
    • 2016.0016 PPL
    • 2016.0016 PPN-0404
    • 2016.0016 PCN-0034
    • 2016.0016 PCP-0267

Advance appointment required to view color material in cold storage or negatives in cool storage; please email research@chicagohistory.org.

Copyright restrictions may apply. Credit photographer(s).

Materials were a gift of Ron Gordon (2016.0016).

Please cite this collection as Ron Gordon visual materials (Chicago History Museum) plus a detailed description, date, and box/folder number of a specific item.

Black-and-white photographic negatives (approximately 780, 8 in. x 10 in. and smaller), 20 in. x 24 in. photographic prints (2,308), 4 in. x 5 in. photographic prints (5,195), and contact sheets (approximately 274); 8 in. x 10 in. color prints (6); and color transparencies (112, 4 in. x 5 in. and smaller) by Ron Gordon related to his professional work as a freelance photographer in Chicago. Images document Chicago’s built environment and building demolitions over the last decades of the twentieth century (primarily South Loop, Pilsen, and Bronzeville neighborhoods and residents), projects like Sculpture Chicago and "Changing Chicago," baseball games at Comiskey Park, and airplanes in flight near Midway Airport. Images also include photographs published in Arcadia Publishing’s "Forgotten Chicago" and "Printers Row, Chicago." Other photographic material relating to named projects and assignments include Gordon’s published work for the "Chicago Reader" and the Mexican publication, "Travesias." Also included is published and printed material related to these projects.

Ron Gordon was born in Chicago in 1942. He received a bachelor's degree in language and literature from the University of Illinois in 1965 and a master's degree in literature in 1968. Gordon became interested in film as a graduate student and joined the Cinema Society. Around this time, Gordon’s brother also introduced him to the field of architecture and architectural photography. In the late 1960s, he met the photographer Michel Ditlove, who offered Gordon tips in darkroom printing. As Gordon explained, “When I discovered the darkroom everything just came together for me. It combined mechanics, chemistry, aesthetics and story telling.” Gordon resided first in Printers Row and later the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, where he also owned a photography studio and printing lab, until 2016.

Concerned with historic preservation, particularly within his home neighborhoods, Gordon photographed much of Chicago’s built environment over his 30-year career. In particular, he documented a series of preservation efforts by the city of Chicago, including projects like the Marshall Field House, the Maxwell Street area, and the Loop elevated stations. Images he created of these locations were used in his publication projects, "Printers Row, Chicago" (Arcadia, 2003), "Forgotten Chicago" (Arcadia, 2004), and "Changing Chicago, A Photodocumentary" (University of Illinois Press, 1989). Gordon also was a frequent photograph contributor for the "Chicago Reader." From 1991 to 1995, Gordon’s studio worked on photographic portions of movies such as "A River Runs Through It" (Columbia Pictures, 1992), "The Fugitive" (Warner Bros., 1993), and "Primal Fear" (Paramount Pictures, 1996). For "A River Runs Through It," Gordon’s studio printed photographs of the film's actors onto vintage paper from the early 20th century; these prints appear in the opening credits.

Gordon has exhibited his photographs in Chicago at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Hyde Park Art Center, and Prospectus Gallery. He also has exhibited nationally and internationally at the American Institute of Architecture and the Galerie Minaca in Paris. His work is in the permanent collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, and the Illinois State Museum. As of 2017, Gordon continues to run his photography business out of Durham, North Carolina.

Related materials at the Chicago History Museum, Research Center, include the descriptive inventory for the Changing Chicago photodocumentary archive, 1983-1989 (1991.0369).

  • Names
    • Chicago White Sox (Baseball team) -- Photographs
    • Comiskey Park (Chicago, Ill.) -- Photographs
    • Midway Airport -- Photographs
    • Sculpture Chicago (Organization)
  • Subject
    • Changing Chicago (Photography project: Chicago, Ill.)
    • Chicago reader
    • Travesias
    • Demolition -- Illinois -- Chicago -- 20th century -- Photographs
    • Historic preservation -- Illinois -- Chicago -- 20th century -- Photographs
  • Geographic Coverage
    • Bronzeville (Chicago, Ill.)
    • Loop (Chicago, Ill.)
    • Lower West Side (Chicago, Ill.)
    • Maxwell Street (Chicago, Ill.)

The collection is arranged in five series, the first two series are further divided into seven and five subseries, respectively.

Series 1. Built environment, 1978-2008 (box 1-39, 71)

Organized into seven subseries according to photographic subject matter, this series consists of black-and-white photographic prints and contact sheets and color photographic prints depicting the built environment in Chicago, including images of downtown Chicago, the Chicago Coliseum, and Madhatter store. Images also depict building demolitions of businesses in the Maxwell Street area such as Respect Yourself and Breyers.

Subseries 1. Buildings and demolitions, 1979-2008 (boxes 1–13)

Black-and-white photographic prints of buildings and building demolitions in Chicago. Buildings such as the Monadnock, the Chicago Coliseum and demolitions of small businesses such as Respect Yourself, Breyers, and Madhatters are represented in the photographs.

Subseries 2. Transit stations, 1979-2002 (boxes 14–20)

Black-and-white photographic prints of Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) train stations such as the Dearborn, Northwestern, Randolph, Madison, Grand Central, and State/Lake station. Other views include interior and exterior views of Chicago’s Union Station.

Subseries 3. Cityscapes, 1981-2000 (boxes 21–25, 71)

Black-and-white and color photographic prints of Chicago cityscapes, including rooftop views from the John Hancock and various buildings around Chicago, views from One Financial Place, State Street, and façade view of Frank Lloyd Wright Francisco Terrace apartments (253 N. Francisco Street). An image series of airplanes in flight above residential neighborhoods and dwellings near Midway Airport is included.

Subseries 4. Maxwell Street, 1995-1998 (boxes 26–29)

Black-and-white photographic prints and proofs documenting the area in and around Maxwell Street in Chicago, including interior and exterior views of the architecture along Maxwell Street. Other images depict small businesses, storefronts, and portraits of individuals and local personalities like Tyner White and Merlin.

Subseries 5. Restaurants and businesses, 1979-1989 (box 30–33)

Black-and-white photographic prints depicting exterior and interior views of various restaurants and businesses in Chicago such as the National Cafeteria, Barbara’s bookstore, and the Globe print shop.

Subseries 6. Chicago bridges, 1987-2004 (boxes 34–35)

Black-and-white photographic prints depicting general and detailed views of Chicago bridges.

Subseries 7. Comiskey Park, 1978-1991 (boxes 36-39)

Black-and-white photographic prints documenting Chicago White Sox stadium, Comiskey Park. Images include multiple views of Comiskey Park, various baseball games, and ball player, coach, and fan images. Other images include the demolition of Comiskey Park.

Series 2. Projects, 1974-2001 (boxes 40-66, 71)

Organized into five subseries according to project name or Gordon's own filing system, this series consists of black-and-white photographic prints, negatives, contact sheets, and transparencies related to named projects and assignments, including Gordon’s published work for the "Chicago Reader" and the Mexican publication, "Travesias." Other photographic material includes his documentation of Sculpture Chicago, "Printers Row, Chicago," and "Changing Chicago."

Subseries 1. Sculpture Chicago, 1983-1986 (boxes 40-52)

Black-and-white and color photographic prints, proofs, negatives, and transparencies from the Sculpture Chicago outdoor sculpture exhibition in downtown Chicago. Images include multiple views of outdoor sculptural artwork, including the Chicago Mile of Sculpture event held at Navy Pier in 1984. This subseries is organized according to Gordon's original order: subject, year, and job number (e.g., Sculpture Chicago, 1983, job # 07285–08071), where the range of job numbers listed on the negative sleeves correspond to the job numbers noted on the contact sheets/proofs. There are sequential gaps in some of the job numbers.

Subseries 2. Miscellaneous projects, 1974-2001 (boxes 53-58, 71)

Black-and-white photographic prints from various projects as photographed and organized by Ron Gordon. Images include landscape views of the elevated train tracks on Harrison street, the Foresters, Chicago Auditorium buildings, Maxwell Street, Northwestern station, Roosevelt bridge, Chicago River, views of the Pilsen neighborhood and early photographs of the Pilsen artist, Marcos Raya, along with views of his studio, artwork, and exhibition photographs. Gordon's original box titles use the term "miscellaneous."

Subseries 3. "Printers Row, Chicago" book project, 1984 (box 59-63)

Black-and-white photographic prints, some mounted, from Arcadia Publishing’s "Printers Row, Chicago" book project. Photographs include views of buildings along Printers Row (between Congress Parkway and Polk Street and Plymouth Court and the Chicago River) and portraits of individuals and local personalities, Tyner White and Merlin.

Subseries 4. "Changing Chicago," 1987-1989 (box 64)

Black-and-white photographic work and exhibition prints created for the Changing Chicago photodocumentary project sponsored by the Focus/Infinity Fund of Chicago.

Subseries 5. "Chicago Reader" and "Travesias" magazine, 1980 (boxes 65-66)

Black-and-white photographic prints, 35mm negatives, and contact sheets for a story titled "Abandoned," for the "Chicago Reader" newspaper published on January 25, 1980. Photographs include views of dilapidated buildings in different Chicago neighborhoods. Other images include documentation for an assignment for the Mexican publication, "Travesias."

Series 3. Portraits, 1980-1987 (boxes 67-71)

Black-and-white photographic portraits of individuals and other local personalities from various projects including environmental portraits seen in "Forgotten Chicago." Other images depict Chicago-based Italian sculptor, Virginio Ferrari, working in his studio, as well as his artwork.

Series 4. Project negatives, transparencies, and proofs, 1979-2010 (boxes 72-76)

Black-and-white photographic negatives and proofs and color photographic negatives and transparencies created for various assignments and projects that Gordon organized by subject and/or project name along with the date (e.g., Crown Hall, June 2004).

Series 5. Publications and promotional material, 1989-2016 (box 77)

Publications, printed material, and promotional material primarily related to Gordon’s publication projects, including "Printers Row, Chicago" (Arcadia, 2003), "Forgotten Chicago" (Arcadia, 2004), and "Changing Chicago, A Photodocumentary" (University of Illinois Press, 1989). The copy of "Changing Chicago" is annotated and has signatures by the participating writers, curators, and photographers. Also included is Gordon’s self-published work, "Ron Gordon, Selected Photographs" (1998), a real estate listing for Gordon’s former home and studio located at 1720 South Halsted Street in Pilsen, and a special issue of Inland Architect on architectural photography featuring Gordon. Promotional material includes a button and multiple catalogs from Sculpture Chicago.