Back of the Yards

PhotographerMegan E. Doherty
PrizeHonorable Mention
Entry Description

A long-term documentary project wherein I've followed the last remaining member of a tiny street ministry that works with gangs in Chicago, IL, USA. Less important that what the project is ostensibly "about" is what I want to happen to the viewer. And that's this: I want you to stop trying to understand. There's a fullness to humanity that escapes comprehension, and the lyricism of some of these images punctuates because they are meant to -- they are pauses meant to attune you, and to stop your thinking so you may feel, so you may be more open. I want you to accept the mystery and the complexity of life in this community. There are no easy narratives, here, because easy narratives are false and do a disservice to the honest discontinuity that lies in each of us.

Story

For the last four years, I've been documenting the last remaining member of a tiny street ministry that tends to those involved in, and victimized by, gang violence on the South and West Sides of Chicago. Jim Fogarty, known affectionately as "Brother Jim," wears a hand-sewn habit made out of scraps of denim, now tattered after over 30 years of use. That's how long he's been traversing the dangerous streets by foot, carrying only rosary beads to pass out - that, and offering prayers, and maybe a little hope. His path across the city is broad, and the Back of the Yards neighborhood on the city's South Side is my primary vantage point. By now, the residents largely all know who he is, and often come running when they see him coming down the street, or call out from their windows, asking him to pray for them. Once upon a time, he stood between warring gangs shooting at each other, bullets whizzing by, risking his life. Now, they ask him for rosaries. In an effort to neither whitewash nor sensationalize, I've taken care to attend to all those moments that, while difficult or simply mundane and easy to ignore, are also sublimely beautiful. Less important that what the project is ostensibly "about" is what I want to happen to the viewer. And that's this: I want you to stop trying to understand. There's a fullness to humanity that escapes comprehension, and the lyricism of some of these images punctuates because they are meant to -- they are pauses meant to attune you, and to stop your thinking so you may feel, so you may be more open. I want you to accept the mystery and the complexity of life in this community. There are no easy narratives, here, because easy narratives are false and do a disservice to the honest discontinuity that lies in each of us.