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About the Photographer
American, b. 1946
Street photographer Tom Harney was helped early on by the guidance of photographer Barbara Crane, but there is a closer affinity between his work and that of his friend Garry Winogrand. Like Winogrand, Harney has taken an energetic, proflic approach to the practice of photography, with an attentiveness to the unusual moments that occur as communal life unfolds in public places; Harney stated, "I’m set on the idea of taking photographs every day with the belief these photographs start to make sense as a body of work—that’s as close as I’m willing to come to identifying a project." Nevertheless, he has on occasion devoted himself to more narrowly defined subjects for a time. In his contribution to the Changing Chicago documentary project in the late 1980s, Harney photographed at Comiskey Park, the former home of the Chicago White Sox, during one of the final baseball seasons before the stadium was closed and demolished.
One of the largest documentary photography projects ever organized in an American city, Changing Chicago commissioned thirty-three photographers to document life throughout Chicago's diverse urban and suburban neighborhoods. The project was launched in 1987 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the invention of photography and the 50th anniversary of the Farm Security Administration documentary project, which provides its inspirational model. Changing Chicago honors the tradition of the FSA project, but it moved away from its predecessor's ambition of inspiring social change towards the more general goal of providing a nuanced description of the human experience in a particular geographic area. Sponsored by the Focus/Infinity Fund of Chicago, the project was organized with the support of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum of Natural History, the Chicago Historical Society, and the Chicago Office of Fine Arts, Chicago Public Library Cultural Center. In the spring of 1989 the five institutions mounted concurrent exhibitions devoted to the project.
Tom Harney completed a BA in business administration at Michigan State University (1968). A self-taught photographer, Harney worked on staff for the Chicago Sun-Times in the early 1970s, and since 1981 he has worked as a freelance photographer.