Worth your time:

This month, in our annual Photo Issue, The FADER is publishing a feature on the epidemic of youth violence in Chicago, photographed by Daniel Shea. It’s no exaggeration to say this has been one of the most fulfilling projects that Daniel and I have ever worked on. 

The feature is live online today. Over the duration of the week four extended edits will be posted along with conversations between Daniel and I.

This essay was a deviation from past photo issues. Instead of publishing preexisting work we decided to commission one large essay with ambitious goals. Our choice to shoot on the ground in Chicago stemmed from the idea that the violent rhetoric that permeates contemporary rap music has a human cost that is too often overlooked. The FADER and many other magazines covering new music feature musicians that propagate cultures of violence (like Chief Keef, who Daniel shot for The FADER’s cover less than a year ago). With the magazine’s audience of young people in mind, we wanted to face that head on. 

What resulted is 16 pages of photographs and a Q&A with veteran Chicago reporter Alex Kotlowitz. We aimed to depict what life in the South Side is like for young people, through individuals affected by violence, those participating in it and the grassroots effort to curb the spread of retaliatory crime which seems to have no end.

I would like to personally thank Daniel, my friend, for his incredible effort and determination working on this project, as well as the staff and publishers of The FADER for believing in it and to the men and women of CeaseFire who opened countless doors for us. Please spread the word and consider donating to their incredible effort.

I’m very excited to be able to share this work. It was the most difficult and rewarding assignment I’ve ever worked on, and I echo everything Geordie said above. Geo and I have been talking for a long time about the universe as it exists within hip hop lyricism, versus the reality that those illustrations are based on. I didn’t think it would turn into anything real, but Geordie, Matthew Schnipper and everyone at The Fader presented the opportunity to make a story like this possible. 

These are things I care deeply about, so if you have some time, consider the people and stories that are behind the work. This is also in no way a complete or even close to complete attempt at understanding the complexities of violence and systems of oppression and poverty in Chicago or elsewhere. It’s what we could work on in about a month’s time. 

I owe so much to the people that let me in and showed me their lives and neighborhoods, I’m beyond grateful to them. And of course, I’m so stoked to be working again with my buddy Geordie. Thanks for looking.