LAKEVIEW — Jack Mongan may be a rock 'n' roll photographer, but he has priorities: He gave up a chance to photograph a '60s music legend so he could shoot prom photos for his students at Lake View High School.
It was an easy choice for Mongan — who didn't want to name the musician because there's a chance he can photograph him in July — and he said he has no regrets.
"Prom only happens one time for these kids and I sure don't want to miss that opportunity," said the journalism and drama teacher and yearbook adviser.
Mongan, who was born in Back of the Yards, has been a teacher in one way or another for decades, but he's also been a Hollywood bigwig — he was an associate producer for the 1980s TV hit "Remington Steele" — and is a photography nut, having learned from famed photojournalist P. Michael O'Sullivan.
O'Sullivan mentored Mongan in photography in the '70s and gave him the confidence to pursue a career in Hollywood after seven years of teaching in Chicago's suburbs. Even when he was in Hollywood, Mongan taught drama in Los Angeles, he said.
But Mongan became "burned out" as a TV producer after 20 years and went back to teaching in Los Angeles. He returned to Chicago eight years ago and started at Lake View, where his love for photography was re-ignited.
"It wasn't until I moved back here and was given the job as yearbook adviser that I started picking up a camera again. As soon as that happened it's like something clicked and all the sudden I was overcome with the passion again for photography," Mongan said. "And so I'm never without a camera now."
Mongan has pursued street photography, but he's also fallen in love with concert photography, especially when it gives him a chance to feature Chicago performers. He's photographed The Buckinghams and Danny Seraphine, who founded and played the drums for iconic group Chicago, among others.
He also does photos for his friends, like band Plastic Crime Wave Synidcate. Each shoot gives him a chance to learn something new, Mongan said.
"There's an energy to it," Mongan said. "There's an excitement to it that reminds me of when I was an actor — the whole idea of being on stage."
Mongan has to balance his passion for photography with being a teacher: He listens to a police scanner and runs out to grab photos of fires, but he would never skip school for that, he said.
"I may shoot rock concerts, but I'm a teacher," Mongan said. "And that's the way it is and that's the way that my priorities are laid out."