About the Photographer
American, b. 1958
For the Changing Chicago documentary project in the late 1980s, James Iska photographed the young students at the Hans Christian Andersen School in an ethnically mixed neighborhood on Chicago's northwest side. Rather than acting as an objective record, Iska describes the series of photographs as "a personal document of specific people and a specific place, and the relationships between them, as well as a remembrance of my own childhood in the city."
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 Chicago, Iska completed a BS in photography at the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology (1980). In the decades following the Changing Chicago project, Iska has concentrated primarily on architectural and landscape photography, and he has produced photographs for books focusing on the cities of New York and Philadelphia, and on Chicago's parks. He works as a departmental specialist in the Department of Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago.