Michael Schmelling: Your Blues
In 2013, the Museum of Contemporary Photography commissioned American photographer Michael Schmelling to make a new series of photographs about music in his hometown of Chicago. First shown as the solo exhibition Your Blues in 2014 (curated by Karen Irvine), this ambitious body of work now takes form of an artist book, co-published by The Ice Plant and Skinnerboox. Schmelling spent eighteen months immersed in the project, crisscrossing Chicago alone at night, making his way into basement shows, crowded clubs, parties, and recording studios (“waiting in the dark for a communal experience with strangers,” as he describes it), documenting both the communal culture at large — musicians and fans alike — and the DIY individualism of the characters involved. Focussing on niche and local acts in unconventional venues, Schmelling’s work reflects a vibrant, fluid crossover between the region’s music genres, a diffuse legacy that encompasses the blues, punk, psychedelic jazz, rap, emo, hardcore, and house music. In Chicago “there’s no dominant cultural tradition,” writes musician Tim Kinsella in an essay included in the book. “The dominant form is hybridity.” Teeming with enthralled bodies and ecstatic faces, Your Blues is an energetic and intimate document of a time and place, featuring over 200 meticulously sequenced photographs, puzzled together through subtle rhythms and recurring visual riffs, infusing Schmelling’s own personal photo-cryptology into the evolving musical history of the city.