Michael Abramson’s iconic photo series captures the city’s underground funk, blues and early disco scene.

Michael Abramson’s iconic photo series captures the city’s underground funk, blues and early disco scene.

A new exhibition at London’s MMX Gallery will celebrate the work of late American photographer Michael Abramson. The show, which opens on Wednesday (March 21), will focus specifically on his shots of Chicago nightlife in the ’70s – a collection which saw him capture the city’s underground funk, blues and early disco scene.

Most of the pictures were taken in Chicago’s South Side, which is a predominantly black part of the city. Abramson, a white photographer, was welcomed into the area’s nightclubs and became an unlikely, but integral, part of each evening’s atmosphere. “I realise I have been to every part of the planet… but I have never been as far away as I was when I was on the South Side of Chicago,” Abramson said of the time. “Not because it was exotic, but because it was so exhilarating.”

The photographer, who passed away in 2011, eventually won a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for the series, carving out a successful career as a photojournalist in the years that followed. The photographs were also compiled into a book, which accompanied the Grammy Award-winning album Light: On the South Side – a compilation of classic tracks from the era collected by record label Numero Group.

“A camera is a window through which a photographer interacts with the world, and it’s up to the operator to decide whether his camera will be a barrier or a mirror between he and his subjects,” said Numero Group head, Joe Tangari, in 2009. “Abramson initiated himself into the nightlife of Chicago’s predominantly black neighbourhoods. He was very much a part of the scene he documented on film, drinking, laughing, and dancing with his subjects into small hours and becoming as much a part of the atmosphere as the locals who frequented the same nightspots he did.”

© Michael Abramson, Courtesy of MMX Gallery. 0170 © Michael Abramson, Courtesy of MMX Gallery 051 © Michael Abramson, Courtesy of MMX Gallery. 015 © Michael Abramson, Courtesy of MMX Gallery. 114 © Michael Abramson, Courtesy of MMX Gallery. 0131 © Michael Abramson, Courtesy of MMX Gallery. 058 © Michael Abramson, Courtesy of MMX Gallery. 115 © Michael Abramson, Courtesy of MMX Gallery. 112 © Michael Abramson, Courtesy of MMX Gallery. 005 © Michael Abramson, Courtesy of MMX Gallery. 0139 © Michael Abramson, Courtesy MMX Gallery. 047jpeg © Michael Abramson, Courtesy of MMX Gallery. 037 © Michael Abramson, Courtesy of MMX Gallery. 0119

Tales from the South Side, 1970’s Chicago Clubs will run at London’s MMX Gallery, in New Cross, from March 21 – May 5, 2018.

Enjoyed this article? Like Huck on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.