Photographs and Text by Art Shay

Foreword by David Mamet (below)

I hear the Chicago accent, and I am a gone goose. Decades of living away, acting school, speech lessons, and the desire to make myself understood in a wider world are gone, and I am saying dese, dem and dose, and am back on the corner, tapping the other fellow on the forearm to make my point, and happy. Art Shay’s writing, and his photos, have the Chicago accent, which may be to say he’s telling you the truth as he knows it, as what right-thinking person would consider doing anything else?

I remember Algren’s Chicago. I remember Algren, sitting alone, in the back at Second City, regularly. I remember the pawnshops on West Madison street—I used to shop there; Sundays at Maxwell Street, and the ventors pulling on your arm and talking in Yiddish; police headquarters at 11th and State, and getting dragged down there on this or that bogus roust when I drove a cab. Art’s photographs are so real that I reflect that I, like them, must have all occurred in black and white.

I think it takes a realist to see the humor in things. I know it takes a realist to see the depth of tragedy. Art’s work feels like the guy tapping me on the forearm.


In the book’s preface, photographer Art Shay quotes Ernest Hemingway’s assessment of Nelson Algren, after reading The Man with the Golden Arm, “…He has been around a long time but only the pros know him…This is a man writing and you should not read it if you can’t take a punch. I doubt if any of you can. Mr. Algren can hit with both hands and move around and he will kill you if you are not awfully careful…Boy, Mr. Algren, you are good.” 


Chicago’s Nelson Algren is photographer Art Shay‘s account of visits during the 1950s to Chicago’s “lower depths” with novelist Nelson Algren — at the time, a resident of the city’s Near Northwest Side.

Here’s an excerpt from book’s description from the page:  Algren gave Shay’s camera entrance into the back-alley world of Division Street, and Shay captured Algren’s poetry on film. They were masters chronicling the same patch of ground with different tools. Chicago’s Nelson Algren... [is] a deeply moving homage to the writer and his city.