Descriptive inventory for the Ron Gordon visual materials, 1971-2016

Ron Gordon visual materials

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Descriptive inventory for the Ron Gordon visual materials, 1971-2016

Prepared by Analu M. Lopez, 2017.
Please address questions to:
Chicago History Museum, Research Center
1601 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614-6038
Instructions for accessing this collection

Collection Overview +/-

Title: Ron Gordon visual materials, 1971-2016 (inclusive)
Creators: Ron Gordon
Ron Gordon Photography Studio
Dates: 1971-2016 (inclusive)
Accession number: 2016.0016
Bib number: 00235613
Call numbers: 2016.0016 PPL
2016.0016 PPN-0404
2016.0016 PCN-0034
2016.0016 PCP-0267
Size: 68 linear feet, including approximately 7,783 images (77 boxes)
Language of material:Collection is written in English, and Spanish.

Provenance statement:

Materials were a gift of Ron Gordon (2016.0016).

Terms governing use:

Copyright restrictions may apply. Credit photographer(s).


Advance appointment required to view color material in cold storage or negatives in cool storage; please email

Please cite this collection as:

Please cite this collection as Ron Gordon visual materials (Chicago History Museum) plus a detailed description, date, and box/folder number of a specific item.

Additional Materials +/-

Related material:

Related materials at the Chicago History Museum, Research Center, include the descriptive inventory for the Changing Chicago photodocumentary archive, 1983-1989 (1991.0369).

Collection Summary +/-

Black-and-white photographic negatives (approximately 780, 8 in. x 10 in. and smaller), 20 in. x 24 in. photographic prints (2,308), 4 in. x 5 in. photographic prints (5,195), and contact sheets (approximately 274); 8 in. x 10 in. color prints (6); and color transparencies (112, 4 in. x 5 in. and smaller) by Ron Gordon related to his professional work as a freelance photographer in Chicago. Images document Chicago’s built environment and building demolitions over the last decades of the twentieth century (primarily South Loop, Pilsen, and Bronzeville neighborhoods and residents), projects like Sculpture Chicago and "Changing Chicago," baseball games at Comiskey Park, and airplanes in flight near Midway Airport. Images also include photographs published in Arcadia Publishing’s "Forgotten Chicago" and "Printers Row, Chicago." Other photographic material relating to named projects and assignments include Gordon’s published work for the "Chicago Reader" and the Mexican publication, "Travesias." Also included is published and printed material related to these projects.

Biographical/Historical Note +/-

Ron Gordon was born in Chicago in 1942. He received a bachelor's degree in language and literature from the University of Illinois in 1965 and a master's degree in literature in 1968. Gordon became interested in film as a graduate student and joined the Cinema Society. Around this time, Gordon’s brother also introduced him to the field of architecture and architectural photography. In the late 1960s, he met the photographer Michel Ditlove, who offered Gordon tips in darkroom printing. As Gordon explained, “When I discovered the darkroom everything just came together for me. It combined mechanics, chemistry, aesthetics and story telling.” Gordon resided first in Printers Row and later the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, where he also owned a photography studio and printing lab, until 2016.

Concerned with historic preservation, particularly within his home neighborhoods, Gordon photographed much of Chicago’s built environment over his 30-year career. In particular, he documented a series of preservation efforts by the city of Chicago, including projects like the Marshall Field House, the Maxwell Street area, and the Loop elevated stations. Images he created of these locations were used in his publication projects, "Printers Row, Chicago" (Arcadia, 2003), "Forgotten Chicago" (Arcadia, 2004), and "Changing Chicago, A Photodocumentary" (University of Illinois Press, 1989). Gordon also was a frequent photograph contributor for the "Chicago Reader." From 1991 to 1995, Gordon’s studio worked on photographic portions of movies such as "A River Runs Through It" (Columbia Pictures, 1992), "The Fugitive" (Warner Bros., 1993), and "Primal Fear" (Paramount Pictures, 1996). For "A River Runs Through It," Gordon’s studio printed photographs of the film's actors onto vintage paper from the early 20th century; these prints appear in the opening credits.

Gordon has exhibited his photographs in Chicago at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Hyde Park Art Center, and Prospectus Gallery. He also has exhibited nationally and internationally at the American Institute of Architecture and the Galerie Minaca in Paris. His work is in the permanent collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, and the Illinois State Museum. As of 2017, Gordon continues to run his photography business out of Durham, North Carolina.

Catalog Subject Headings +/-

Changing Chicago (Photography project: Chicago, Ill.)
Chicago reader
Demolition -- Illinois -- Chicago -- 20th century -- Photographs
Historic preservation -- Illinois -- Chicago -- 20th century -- Photographs
Chicago White Sox (Baseball team) -- Photographs
Comiskey Park (Chicago, Ill.) -- Photographs
Midway Airport -- Photographs
Sculpture Chicago (Organization)
Contact sheets
Photographic prints
Photographic prints--Color
Bronzeville (Chicago, Ill.)
Loop (Chicago, Ill.)
Lower West Side (Chicago, Ill.)
Maxwell Street (Chicago, Ill.)

Organization and Arrangement of Collection +/-

The collection is arranged in five series, the first two series are further divided into seven and five subseries, respectively.

Click on heading to view series description.

Series 1. Built environment, 1978-2008 (box 1-39, 71)
Subseries 1. Buildings and demolitions, 1979-2008 (boxes 1–13)
Subseries 2. Transit stations, 1979-2002 (boxes 14–20)
Subseries 3. Cityscapes, 1981-2000 (boxes 21–25, 71)
Subseries 4. Maxwell Street, 1995-1998 (boxes 26–29)
Subseries 5. Restaurants and businesses, 1979-1989 (box 30–33)
Subseries 6. Chicago bridges, 1987-2004 (boxes 34–35)
Subseries 7. Comiskey Park, 1978-1991 (boxes 36-39)
Series 2. Projects, 1974-2001 (boxes 40-66, 71)
Subseries 1. Sculpture Chicago, 1983-1986 (boxes 40-52)
Subseries 2. Miscellaneous projects, 1974-2001 (boxes 53-58, 71)
Subseries 3. "Printers Row, Chicago" book project, 1984 (box 59-63)
Subseries 4. "Changing Chicago," 1987-1989 (box 64)
Subseries 5. "Chicago Reader" and "Travesias" magazine, 1980 (boxes 65-66)
Series 3. Portraits, 1980-1987 (boxes 67-71)
Series 4. Project negatives, transparencies, and proofs, 1979-2010 (boxes 72-76)
Series 5. Publications and promotional material, 1989-2016 (box 77)

About This Finding Aid +/-

Creation: Finding aid encoded by Analu M. Lopez using Oxygen Editor, 2017.
Language: Finding aid is written in English.
Other Finding Aids: Finding aid also submitted to the Explore Chicago Collections portal.
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