Achieving the Dream: John White Pictures the 70s
John White holds a unique place in African-American journalistic history. Not only is he part of the tiny percentage of African Americans who have found employment as photographers in America's fourth estate—also known as print journalism—he has enjoyed a renowned 40-year career and was awarded a Pulitzer Prize.
While working at the Chicago Daily News in 1973, White got the unique assignment to work for the federal government and, more specifically, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a program called DOCUMERICA. Modeled after the successful WPA project of the 1930s and 1940s, photographers in DOCUMERICA were to capture scenes of environmental blight (though it eventually opened up to a broader canvas). The result, from photographers all over the country, represents a rich tapestry of American life in the 1970s. According to White, this assignment represented "an opportunity to capture a slice of life, to capture history."
White focused on the African-American community in Chicago, at that time a place steeped in segregation. In his series of photographs, he presents the rich and varied lives on the city's South Side, from the faces of the distressed and dignified to the lives of the deeply religious, from Jesse Jackson's controversial pulpit to hard working brothers trying to make a buck. It is John White's vision of a city, of a community, and of a place that few outside his community knew well.
John White continues to capture images of the city for the Chicago Sun-Times. He has been the recipient of numerous awards, including induction into the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame.