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Bob Rehak's Photos of Uptown in the 1970s the Focus of New Exhibit

By Adeshina Emmanuel | April 25, 2014 7:53am | Updated on April 25, 2014 12:03pm
 The 272-page book features photos Rehak said he took between 1973 and 1977. The book started with a photo blog with a plethora of pictures that caught a publisher's eye, Rehak said.
Portrait of a Chicago Neighborhood in the mid-1970s
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UPTOWN — Bob Rehak's popular photos of Uptown from 1973-1977 are coming to a neighborhood coffee shop Saturday to kick off a monthlong exhibit.

Rehak is the author and photographer behind "Uptown: Portrait of a Chicago Neighborhood in the Mid-1970s." The book captures the soul of a diverse neighborhood in turmoil that maintained a working-class charm and positive spirit amid tragic circumstances in the community.

The new exhibit, "Portraits of Uptown: Bob Rehak," will include 13 of Rehak's prints and run until May 30 at Everybody's Coffee in Wilson Abbey, 931-939 W. Wilson Ave., a neighborhood center run by the Christian commune Jesus People USA.

Rehak's photos capture everything from struggling families living in poverty to children frolicking in alleys to migrant workers from Appalachia, immigrants, activists, derelicts, business owners and swaggering gang members.

“Yet they were some of the most wonderful, welcome people that I’ve ever come across,” Rehak said during a preview of the exhibit.

The Houston-based advertising executive, now in his mid-60s, was a young advertising copywriter living in Rogers Park when he began taking pictures of Uptown at a time of intense social and economic transition.

Poverty in the diverse neighborhood was exacerbated by recession; scores of mentally ill moved to the area after government institutions released them; and gentrification in Old Town and Lincoln Park pushed more poor families into the community, where the housing stock was deteriorated but affordable.

His photos went viral when he posted them online last summer, eventually landing him a book deal.

Alyssa Berman-Cutler, president of of economic development organization Uptown United described Rehak's photos as “a time capsule of Uptown 40 years ago."

"He beautifully captured the diversity," she said, "including young people in love, families struggling to make a living, and kids, lots of kids, as if the whole neighborhood was a playground.”

A reception is scheduled for May 2 at Everybody's Coffee, where prints will be for sale, according to Wilson Abbey.