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Over the course of the two years that I lived on Chicago Ave and Orleans, I became accustomed to the constant barrage of screams, heckling and drama across the street. I got used to watching fights break out four stories below and even had my car broken into twice outside the infamous building at 800 N. Sedgewick. Crack pipes were waved in my face, bricks thrown through my window, and I even had to a orchestrate a wild scheme to recover stolen camera equipment from one of the high-rises…

This was Cabrini Green, one of Chicago’s most notoriously dangerous housing projects. However, the peak of the chaos in Cabrini Green happened in the 90s and by the time I moved in across the street in 2007 demolition had already been well under way. The area sits on valuable real estate between the Gold Coast and Lincoln Park and will no doubt soon be transformed into coffee shops and condos. 5 of the red buildings were demolished during the 2 years that I lived there. I always wondered what it was like inside the brick walls of these buildings. Obviously an alternate universe to the sheltered lifestyle that I lived across the street in my River North loft. Which is why I was extremely excited to receive a phone call from my former Columbia College instructor Paul D’amato one July afternoon.

“Look across the street, on the rooftop” he told me…

Since 2004, Paul has been working on a project documenting the demise of various Chicago public housing projects. I had emailed Paul the day before to make sure he knew that demolition had begun on another building in Cabrini. Paul often photographs guerrilla style, hopping construction fences and sneaking into demolition sites (with a 4×5 camera!) after the workers leave for the evening.  I highly recommend you take a look at his website www.pauldamato.com . The public housing project is featured in the “We Shall” section but the other projects are worth checking out as well.

Here are some of my favorite images of his.

And here are some of my images from the half hour or I spent with Paul in the building…

This was the state of the building when we climbed up top.


Paul sets up a photo.


Standing in a room on the 6th floor that has already been hit with a wrecking ball? Probably not the best idea…


The view overlooking my studio from the rooftop of the building.

Later that night, I snuck back into a room in the basement with some strobes and the help of friend Colin Snyder to shoot some background plates for a future project. Upon reviewing the photos later I realized that there were cockroaches moving around the room between each exposure I shot!

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