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Matinee: 'Gloria Cassens: Street Photographer' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

30 August 2014

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the forty-eighth in our series of Saturday matinees today: Gloria Cassens: Street Photographer.

Follow Gloria Cassens around Chicago with Chicago Tribune photojournalist Nancy Stone for six and half minutes and you won't need any of those hour-long how-to-get-inspired talks.

Returning to the Tribute Tower one day, Stone ran across a performance piece being staged in a display window, stopped to take some photos of people reactions to it and found Cassens taking a photo.

Cassens told Stone she was a street photographer who specializes in portraits of the homeless and others who are struggling. Cassens herself lives in a single room occupancy hotel in Chicago.

Her whole day, Cassens explains, is "increments of time," going here, going there, during which she snaps photos of things that appeal to her -- whether or not it's of interest to anyone else. She takes the bus, she takes the train. She walks around.

First she did this with a cellphone and then she heard she could get a camera from Catholic Charities, where she can also sell her work each June. She has become a walking encyclopedia of aid services from soup kitchens to social programs.

As Stone says, she's a smart woman. And her work is not naive. Stone describes a portrait Cassens took of her while she was photographing her, pointing out its more sophisticated choices beyond centering the subject and even the rule of thirds.

She not only photographs the homeless but engages them, buying artwork from them and conversing with them. She seems more concerned about them in their struggle to survive than as subjects for her photography, as you see in one sequence near the end.

The Chicago Tribune hosts a gallery of Cassens work, many of which are shown in the video.

"You have the best job in the world," she tells Stone. And in an era when publications (most famously, perhaps, the Chicago Sun-Times) are laying off rather than hiring photographers, this short video shows just what that policy really costs.

Stories like this one.

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