Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2022-03-16
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor

  IDENTITY

Picture Perfect
2004-11-01

This article shared 3738 times since Mon Nov 1, 2004
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


BY ANDREW DAVIS

Even though it's a compliment, to call Chicago-born photographer Michelle V. Agins accomplished would be giving her short shrift. Not only has she worked for several journals but she currently works for one of the world's best-known newspapers, The New York Times. Moreover, she has won many awards—not the least of which is the Pulitzer Prize.

From Oct. 22 to Dec. 15, Agins—along with photographer Michael Bracey—will be featured in an exhibit called 'Haiti: Two Stories' at Bethel Cultural Arts Center. She recently spoke with Windy City Times about everything from her early influences to the importance of bulletproof vests.

Windy City Times: You were born and raised in Chicago. What was that like?

Michelle Agins: It was a nicer time than it is now. I get bummed out when I go back and see only two houses standing [where I used to live].

WCT: How did you get interested in photography?

MA: I lost my mother at an early age and my grandmother was a little sick of me being under her feet, so she found something for me to do. She found a camera; cleaned it up; gave me a dollar; and told me to go to the drugstore at the corner ࿓st and Calumet) and ask the pharmacist to put some film in the camera. Well, that unleashed a whole new world for me. [Photography] then became a major addiction for me.

WCT: Do you remember the very first picture you took?

MA: It was of a puppy. My grandfather had an old dog but I also had a dog to keep me company. They figured that the old dog wouldn't do anything—but the last thing it did was my dog! [Laughs] Later, I took a black-and-white picture of a puppy that was born.

I would also take pictures around the neighborhood. I would photograph folks on the street, including gang members. It was interesting.

WCT: You've worked for a few magazines, including Jet, Ebony, and Sports Illustrated ...

MA: I did freelance work for those magazines. Sports Illustrated was like within the last 10-15 years. [I worked for] Ebony, Jet, and the Chicago Defender when I was growing up. I actually started as a copy girl for The Chicago Daily News; that's where I got my foot in the door. Believe me, I've paid my dues.

WCT: What has been the worst assignment you've had?

MA: Which time? [Laughs] Since I've been with the Times, the 129th Street [in New York City] project stands out in my mind. It was a year-long project about a neighborhood [infested] with guns and drugs. [The reporter and I] got in with everybody but it took a while. The women [in the neighborhood] that the reporter talked to thought I was cool—and that helped me. In that year, I became so embedded that I became closer to the subjects than the reporter did. She actually got scared because it got really heavy; I got involved with the drug dealers themselves. They would tell me about one young lady who was a drug mule because she had to supplement her welfare checks. I moved out of Brooklyn and got a sleeping area to get close to [the residents]. Of course, I saw a lot of sad things.

It was bad at the end. It was time to wrap things up and leave. Sometimes you can get so embedded that it's hard to come out. The Times helped me work that out. Unfortunately, the story didn't turn out like [the residents] wanted it to. The reporter and I had to leave town for a while; they sent the boys after us.

WCT: But everything's cool now ...

MA: Oh, yes! I was sent to the Miami bureau for a while. Then, I went to Washington and Chicago. I came to New York four or five months later. Of course, other things were happening at the time; we had the first World Trade Center bombing as well as the Oklahoma City bombing. There's always something going on.

WCT: What did you win the Pulitzer for?

MA: I was one of a team of 15 who worked on a piece called 'Race in America.' I was paired up with Don Terry, who's now with the Chicago Tribune. Basically, we did a piece on his life and growing up in a biracial family. His mother was white and his father was Black. She left her white family (including children) to marry a Black man, so there was a lot of anger in the families. Each pair had a vignette; we all shared a Pulitzer for national reporting. That happened in 2000.

WCT: Your upcoming show in Chicago centers around Haiti.

MA: [Photographer Michael] Bracey apparently went there during a nicer time; I went in the midst of the coup d'etat this past March. I spoke with [then-president] Bertrand Aristide. I then had to hide out.

WCT: You know, you're doing a little too much hiding out for my comfort.

MA: Let me tell you something: This is some real hidin' out. At first, I cracked up when I was given a bulletproof vest and medical equipment [before I left for Haiti]. I didn't understand how important those things would be until I got there. I saw one person get a machete in the back and another person get shot in the back of the head.

WCT: Whoa!

MA: I ended up face-to-face with an outlaw [at one point]. I tried to see a journalist in a hospital in Port-au-Prince but the place was locked up. [Some others and I] went around to the front where someone would let us in. Then, we ended up with a gun in our faces; I froze. A reporter—Lydia Holmgren—screamed at me to run. I started running, thinking that the guy's gonna shoot me in the back. The only thing that stopped him was that the police was coming in his direction. Then, I dove under a car. Afterwards, I was warned not to do that again because someone could blow up the car.

I [eventually] got to meet Aristide. After leaving this incredible palace, I took pictures of this poor woman standing just outside the place. She seemed to be saying, 'Why me?'

WCT: Wow.

MA: Then, we went to [the port city of] GonaVves, most of which no longer exists because of [hurricane] Ivan the Terrible.

The places I photographed probably are no longer there.

We journalists traveled as a large group. Gunmen there told us that we had to leave our cars in one spot; eventually, we were told that we could bring our cars in but had to leave them at a checkpoint. We finally won the battle and were allowed to talk to the head rebel in GonaVves. However, we had rifles trained on us. The head rebel said that he planned to march into Port-au-Prince and take the city away from Aristide. We got pictures of lots of things, like looters, cement miners, and dead bodies. Seeing dead bodies became normal. It was not pretty.

In [the city of] Cap Haitien, we constantly heard gunshots around our hotel. We had to stay at places that were gated. Otherwise, the gunmen would get you. We had to be on guard because disruptions could occur between pro-Aristide and anti-Aristide people. We talked to the mayor, who said that everything was under control. However, it was very tense; you never knew what was around the next corner. At one point, we saw missile strikes from our hotel. I started thinking that getting my vest was a good idea. It turned out that just about everything, including the mayor's house, was bombed.

At one point, I actually fixed a fellow journalist who was shot in the chest; I used sutures that were provided to me. You don't know what's inside you until you're in a situation like [the ones in Haiti].

WCT: I'm glad that I'll be looking at your pictures in Chicago. I can't imagine what you went through.

MA: I see these photos as projections of the news. I want you to see things as I saw them. You know that knot you get when you don't know what's around the corner? That [feeling] was ongoing.

Bethel Cultural Arts Center is at 1140 N. Lamon. For more information, call 齅) 378-3600 or visit www.BethelCulturalArts.com .


This article shared 3738 times since Mon Nov 1, 2004
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Gayla Turner talks new book uncovering her grandmother's secret queer identity
2022-05-23
In Gayla Turner's debut book, Don't You Dare: Uncovering Lost Love (BookBaby, May 24), she reveals her Grandmother Ruby's (1896-1977) century-old secret queer identity that she hid from the wider world. This revelation became c ...


Gay News

Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith named to Time100 List
2022-05-23
-- From a press release - St. Petersburg, FL — TIME named Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith to the 2022 TIME100, its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. The full list and related tributes appear in ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Broadway, JoJo Siwa, WEHO Pride, 'Jurassic World,' Madonna
2022-05-22
The Broadway League announced that all 41 Broadway theaters in New York City have extended the current mask requirement for audiences through at least June 30, Playbill noted. Charlotte St. Martin, president of The Broadway League, ...


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Queer playwright, LGBTQ+ films, BMI Pop Awards, new superhero
2022-05-15
Jeremy O. Harris, the queer Tony-nominated author of Slave Play, has been named the presiding playwright for the 2023 Yale Drama Series Prize—one of the theater world's most prestigious playwriting honors, Deadline noted. Harris joins the ...


Gay News

NATIONAL New York synod, Danica Roem, legal action, Pride news, PFLAG
2022-05-15
The Metropolitan New York Synod (MNYS), the regional body of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, announced Christopher Vergara as its newly elected vice president, according to a press release. Vergara is the first openly gay ...


Gay News

Los Angeles LGBT Center mourns passing of legendary LGBT activist, leader Urvashi Vaid
2022-05-15
-- From a press release - LOS ANGELES, May 14, 2022—"The world has lost a giant in the movement for LGBTQ freedom, justice and equality. After a valiant battle with cancer, Urvashi Vaid died today," said Los Angeles LGBT Center CEO Lorri ...


Gay News

Report: Malta is the best European country regarding LGBTQ+ rights
2022-05-14
An annual report courtesy of ILGA-Europe stated that Malta remains the best country in Europe for LGBTQ+ rights, Euronews noted. The association said that Malta (which scored 92 out of a possible 100) has maintained the ...


Gay News

THEATER 'The Secretaries: A Parable' running through June 11
2022-05-12
First Floor Theater returns to live production with the world premiere of company member Omer Abbas Salem's The Secretaries: A Parable following the script's 2021 development as part of Goodman Theatre's Future Labs. The production will ...


Gay News

U.S. COVID-19 death toll exceeds 1 million
2022-05-12
One million Americans have now died from the coronavirus, according to an announcement President Joe Biden made May 12, according to ABC News. The number of deaths due to COVID-19 is now equivalent to the population ...


Gay News

THEATER Underscore's 'Notes & Letters' running through May 28
2022-05-12
Underscore Theatre Company celebrates its 10th-anniversary season with the world premiere of the musical Notes & Letters, which features book, music and lyrics by Annabelle Lee Revak (she/her) and is ...


Gay News

Mayor names Bally's at Tribune Publishing Center for Chicago's sole casino license
2022-05-06
-- From a press release - CHICAGO —Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot announced May 5 that the City has selected Bally's Corporation to be the recipient of its sole casino license and the developer to create a world-class casino-resort and entertainment experience in ...


Gay News

Inaugural 'River North Live' taking place June 24-26
2022-05-06
River North Residents Association announced that its annual festival, formerly Taste of River North, will return with a new venue, date and concept for 2022. Taking place June 24-26, River North Live will feature world-class artists ...


Gay News

Todd Connor falls short in Indiana state Senate bid
2022-05-05
Onetime Chicago resident Todd Connor lost his bid to represent Porter County in the Indiana state Senate. State Sen. Rodney Pol, D-Chesterton, edged Connor and Ron Meer in the May 3 primary election, The Shelbyville News ...


Gay News

Illinois Supreme Court denies ex-Bear Richard Dent chance to identify accusers
2022-05-03
The Illinois Supreme Court recently denied former Chicago Bear Richard Dent the chance to learn the names of the people who accused him of sexual harassment and drunken disorderly conduct in 2018, SW Iowa News reported. ...


Gay News

Refracted Theatre to launch inaugural Chicago season with queer production
2022-05-02
Refracted Theatre Company has announced its inaugural Chicago season, featuring a launch event and a world-premiere queer-themed production where curiosity is rewarded with the unexpected, and an open heart is met with a colorful display of ...


 



Copyright © 2022 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 
 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.