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|Born||Michael L. Abramson
October 11, 1948
Jersey City, New Jersey, United States
|Died||March 21, 2011
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Michael Abramson (1948–2011) was a Chicago photographer who produced a large body of artistic and commercial photography. He earned a Bachelor's degree from the Wharton School of Business, but his life took a different direction when he was accepted at the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, and subsequently earned a Masters in 1977. His thesis, "Black Night Clubs of Chicago's South Side," was a reflection and analysis of the photographs he took of patrons and performers in nightclubs on Chicago's south side during the mid-1970s. Abramson's work has often been compared to the 1920s Paris photographer Brassaï (1899-1984). Many of Abramson's south side prints 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. 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. Light on the South Side was nominated for a 2010 Grammy in the category of Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package. 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 of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1984; a second edition of which was released in 2005. Nor were the south side photographs his only portfolio. Among his belongings were found negative and photographs he took on Camera Night, an occasional event held at the Festival Strip club in Chicago. Michael's photographs were of the other photographers taking photos.
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.
Following Abramson's death in 2011 a new book entitled Gotta Go Gotta Flow: Life, Love, and Lust From Chicago's South Side was released by Chicago-based City Files Press (2015). Text in the form of slam-like poetry by acclaimed poet Patricia Smith (poet) accompany the south side images and pump further life into them.
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. His most recent exhibition of his south side portfolio was in 2014 at Chicago's Columbia College and the Museum of Contemporary Photography.