About the Photographer
Phillips, Russell B.
American, b. 1954
For the Changing Chicago documentary project in the late 1980s, Russell Phillips photographed in Chicago's commercial districts, along main thoroughfares such as Lincoln Avenue and Clark, Ashland, Belmont, and Halsted Streets. Working in color, Phillips concentrates primarily on merchants' signage and product displays in these various neighborhoods, emphasizing their visual energy and use of color.
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.
Born in Oklahoma City, Russell Phillips received a BFA in photography from the Kansas City Art Institute (1977) and an MS in photography from the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago (1985). He has been a freelance photographer since 1981.