About the Photographer
American, b. 1944
Born in Chicago, Jay King began taking photographs in 1962 at the city's Riverview Amusement Park. After completing a BA in history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison (1966) he embarked on a profession as a commercial photographer. In the meantime, as can be seen in his photographs of street scenes in Chicago from the late 1960s, King was developing his sensibility as a street photographer while drawing on the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank as models. In the late 1980s, for the Changing Chicago documentary project, Jay King devoted his attention to the DePaul area of Chicago. Photographing ordinary activities and commonplace occurences in the neighborhood, which was undergoing social and economic changes, he attempted to capture the variation in lifestyles and the ways in which different kinds of people coexisted.
One of the largest documentary photography projects ever organized in an American city, Changing Chicago commissioned thirty-three photographers to document life throughout Chicago's diverse urban and suburban neighborhoods. The project was launched in 1987 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the invention of photography and the 50th anniversary of the Farm Security Administration documentary project, which provides its inspirational model. Changing Chicago honors the tradition of the FSA project, but it moved away from its predecessor's ambition of inspiring social change towards the more general goal of providing a nuanced description of the human experience in a particular geographic area. Sponsored by the Focus/Infinity Fund of Chicago, the project was organized with the support of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum of Natural History, the Chicago Historical Society, and the Chicago Office of Fine Arts, Chicago Public Library Cultural Center. In the spring of 1989 the five institutions mounted concurrent exhibitions devoted to the project.