Sep 6, 2023 - Things to Do

New Chicago photo exhibit rises from the ashes

Photo: Justin Kaufmann/Axios

In the unrest following the police murder of George Floyd, several Loop and Mag Mile businesses were destroyed, including Central Camera in Jewelers Row.

  • The 124-year-old shop was looted and set on fire, warping its cameras, photography and film.

Flashback: As Central Camera cleaned up its ruined inventory, professional photographer Chris Kleihege asked if he could have the burned, unused film.

  • "I came down two days after the fire to tell the owners that I knew how to work a shovel or broom," Kleihege tells Axios of Central Camera, which reopened in 2022.
  • The owner "was taking out a couple of big garbage bags of ruined film and asked if I wanted it."

The result: Kleihege took the burned film home, put it in his freezer and months later, used it to photograph controversial monuments around town — now on display as part of the "Monuments" show at the 1871 Gallery in Lincoln Park.

Framed photo of Abraham Lincoln statue.
Photo: Justin Kaufmann/Axios

The intrigue: When developed, the photos of the Columbus statue and Lincoln statue were set to a scaly, snake skin-like background from the warped but usable film.

Act fast: The photos on display through Sept. 9.

A photo of the Ulysses S. Grant statue using warped film from the Central Camera fire in 2020. Photo courtesy of Chris Kleihege
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