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Developing Stories: Peter Elliott recalls the spirit of '77



The demise of Look and Life magazines in the early 1970s convinced Peter Elliott, then an aspiring photojournalist, that the documentary path trod by Henri Cartier-Bresson and Walker Evans was a dead end. Instead, he built a successful career as a commercial photographer, shooting images of food for magazines and television advertisements at his studio, Peter Elliott Productions.

Then, in the summer of 1977--"an electrifying moment in the story of White Sox baseball"--he decided to turn his camera on spectators in the stands at old Comiskey Park. Crowds were turning out in record numbers to see the Sox, who had rebounded from a last-place finish the previous season, and Elliott wanted to record the "blue-collar grittiness" traditionally associated with the city.

"I thought the fans represented what I wanted to capture," Elliott says. "The players come and go. The fans don't. These people were not preoccupied with appearances. They were more down-to-earth than most people. They had their feet to the ground."

After the South Side Hitmen finished third for the season, Elliott stashed his negatives and continued his career. Twenty-four years later he dug them up for the book Park Life: The Summer of 1977 at Comiskey Park, which he self-published earlier this year and which is being distributed by Northwestern University Press. He will sign copies of the book Saturday, June 16, at Barnes & Noble, 1130 N. State, at 2 PM. For more information call 312-280-8155.

--Michael Marsh

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