The Gage Gallery held a panel discussion titled “Shooting Crime” on April 1 that featured Chicago Tribune crime photographers John J. Kim, Anthony Souffle and Abel Uribe.
On display was the photographers’ work from throughout the years, all pictures of crime scenes throughout the city.
Vintage work dating back to 1921 was displayed on the left side of the Gage, while contemporary work from 2013 and 2014 was displayed on the right side of the gallery. Most of the newer photographs came as a result of the newspaper’s coverage of the overnight crime beat, which the three photographers started covering fairly recently.
“A couple of years ago, the [Chicago] Tribune created an overnight crime beat, giving us a very different perspective of crime in Chicago, and what it’s like to cover news at night,” said Michael Zajakowski, a photo editor for the Chicago Tribune.
The work that the photographers have done in covering crime in the city has involved “crazy hours,” Zajakowski says. Some of them have worked from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. for four days a week.
“There’s been quite an investment in doing this kind of work,” Zajakowski said.
Each of the three photographers gave a presentation of their work and the stories behind the pictures they’ve taken. Kim, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, has been working for the Chicago Tribune since 2012 and was the first to present and speak about his work.
“Last summer [during] July fourth weekend, we had over 18 people shot over the course of 42 hours, 14 to 16 of them fatal,” Kim said. “Instead of just photographing what goes on at a crime scene, I took that weekend and spent it at a hospital in order to find someone who was shot on that weekend.”
Kim followed them through it to see what happens to someone who is shot. Kim then showed a video that he produced of a 19-year-old boy named Jamal Johnson who was shot on that Fourth of July weekend.
“He was shot in the torso trying to protect one of his buddies who got beaten up,” Kim said.
After the video, Kim talked about his reasoning behind showing the audience Johnson’s story.
“So, the reason why I wanted to show this is because I get asked why we cover these types of stories because they’re so sad,” Kim said.
People often forget what it cost to deal with shootings, Kim said.
“It costs every single one of you in one way or another to take care of folks who don’t have health insurance,” Kim said. “The Cook County Hospital receives $500 million from the state alone to treat people who are uninsured.”
Kim informed the audience that one night in an intensive care unit costs approximately $12,000.
“He cost all of us in one way or another,” Kim said. “It’s not his fault that he got shot, but this happens 2600 times in one year, so [violence] really does affect us in lots of ways.”
Souffle was the next to present, and he showed a video of his own that depicted his first night as an overnight crime beat photographer.
The video was of a crime involving a man named Antwon Johnson, who was fatally shot by a police officer. Souffle captured the moments right after Johnson’s death, as well as his funeral.
“When we’re approaching these subjects, we’re always trying to look deeper into it,” Souffle said. “Any time we’re given the chance to follow the family after an event, it helps us give more in-depth to our stories.”
The last photographer to show his work was Abel Uribe, a staff photographer for the Chicago Tribune since 2002. Uribe played a video of a mother who lost her two oldest children over the course of four months in 2013.
“I went to one of my editors and said that we need to do more than simply follow the overnight crime beat,” Uribe said. “I wanted to find some of these victims and go out to see if they would allow me to tell their story.”
Uribe spent days following certain families’ stories and is about to begin his project for this year.
“Here we are in 2015, and shootings this year are higher than last year,” Uribe stated. “Change takes time.”
After the three photographers presented their work, Zajakowski asked the panelists a few questions about being crime photographers.
“How does working at night differ from working during the day?” Zajakowski asked the photographers.
Kim said that there has been times when the photographers have been “verbally accosted” and added that keen awareness of their surrounding is especially important.
Souffle talked about how when working at night, each photographer use “fast lenses” because it’s easier to shoot in low light. Also, he added the being careful is important.
“You also just have to be really careful,” Souffle said. “Once you put those cameras up to your face, you become oblivious to what’s around you, so you have to keep close to the reporter you go out with.”
The photographers’ work can be followed and viewed on the Chicago Tribune website through its chronicle of crime titled, “Chicago Under the Gun.”