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Hyde Park Photographer Documents Orphan Houses on Empty South Side Blocks

By Sam Cholke | August 7, 2014 7:20am
 Hyde Park photographer David Schalliol's work captures buildings that now stand alone after their neighbors have been demolished.
Isolated Buildings
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HYDE PARK — A single row house orphaned by its mates in an empty field is one of the distinctive features of the South Side landscape and a defining element in Hyde Park photographer David Schalliol’s work.

“These buildings were designed to speak to their neighbors,” Schalliol said.

Since 2006, Schalliol has documented in his “Isolated Buildings” series structures that now stand alone after neighbors were neglected, derelict and finally demolished.

David Schalliol says he is fascinated with how human interaction with buildings affects their current form:

In one image a trim bungalow and a slender grove of trees stand in a snowy field outlined against the third-shift lights of a neighboring factory. It is a place not quite urban, suburban or rural.

“One of the things I like about the project is the strangeness they can produce and inquisitiveness among the viewers — clearly these buildings were designed to have neighbors,” Schalliol said. “The point is to question what’s going on, because clearly something is going on here.”

Schalliol will talk about the last eight years working on the project at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the University of Chicago Arts Incubator, 301 E. Garfield Blvd.

“I could have stopped several years ago after the core idea was established — but it just wasn’t done,” he said.

Schalliol, who in his final year of a doctorate in sociology at the University of Chicago, said residents' assumptions about his interest in their property have evolved through the recession.

“There were times I was more likely to be identified as a real estate scout,” Schalliol said. “Later on, the climate changed, and people thought I was assessing the building because there was some problem with it.”

Now, he said, people often think he’s in the neighborhood because he works in real estate investment.

Schalliol also will talk about his current project, documenting the demolition of a portion of Englewood that will be part of the expanded Norfolk Southern rail yard.

Arts Incubator artist in residence Andres Hernandez will lead the discussion.

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