Michael Abramson

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Michael Abramson
Dance Scene at Perv's House; Photo taken during the mid-1970s on Chicago's South side.
Born Michael L. Abramson
(1948-10-11)October 11, 1948
Jersey City, New Jersey, United States
Died March 21, 2011(2011-03-21) (aged 62)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Occupation Photographer
Years active 1977–2011

Michael Abramson (1948–2011) was a Chicago photographer who produced a large body of artistic and commercial photography. After deciding not to pursue a career in business—he earned an MBA from the prestigious Wharton School—he earned a degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology, in Chicago, in 1977. There he had studied with several important faculty photographers, including Arthur Siegel. His thesis, "Black Night Clubs of Chicago's South Side," expresses the desire to emulate the stealthy and humane images of the Paris photographer Brassaï (1899-1984). This interest led him to photograph the patrons and performers of Chicago's vibrant southside club scene. Many of these were later published in a photography book / 2 LP record set entitled Light on the South Side (2009), by Chicago music recording company Numero Group.[1] The collection of music featured on the LPs are blues songs by mostly Chicago recording artists, and reflect what was actually playing on the jukeboxes in these clubs at the time. A slideshow was created using Abramson's photographs and the music from the LP.[2] Light on the South Side was nominated for a 2010 Grammy in the category of Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package.[3] Light on the South Side was also a nominee for the MOJO Awards.

Light on the South Side was not Abramson's first publication. He and a former business partner, Kathleen Aguilar, published The Thorne Miniature Rooms[4] of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1984; a second edition of which was released in 2005.

From the mid-1980s to 2010, Abramson earned significant income from thousands of freelance news magazine assignments, including those for Time, Forbes, Newsweek, Business Week, Fortune, Bloomberg, etc.). Abramson’s commercial assignments, largely taken for news or business magazines, were mostly located in the Chicago area, but also the larger Midwestern region of the country. On occasion, Abramson was sent to other locations such as Milan Italy, Longwood CA, South Dakota, New Mexico, and elsewhere. Abramson had a knack for getting his “subjects” on assignments to do something quirky (e.g., executives at Kellogg in their boardroom all eating a bowl of cereal, a female executive up in a tree, a family that sold recycled pallets sitting about 30 feet up in the air atop of big piles of them, and the like.). On almost every shoot, after taking the more professionally required shots—the ones typically selected by the news magazines—there are these creative photographs that have never been seen. Notable subjects include: Steven Spielberg, Michael Jordan, Ron Howard, Oprah Winfrey, Donald Rumsfeld, Louis Farrakhan, Bill Clinton, Steve Jobs, and many more.

Today, Abramson's photographs are included in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian, the Art Institute of Chicago, the California Museum of Photography, the Chicago Historical Society, and the Milwaukee Art Museum.


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