As many loyal followers know, I’ve made my living in the advertising/marketing communications business for more than 40 years. I began working at Leo Burnett right out of graduate school at Northwestern – one year before beginning my photo project in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. After Burnett, I worked at three other major agencies in Chicago, Dallas and Houston before starting my own shop twenty years ago this week.
Last August, this blog went viral. This month, it should surpass 7 million hits since then. Back in November, interest in the Uptown photos turned into a book called Uptown: Portrait of a Chicago Neighborhood in the Mid-1970s. Web site analytics show that the Uptown photos clearly drive the most traffic to this site.
I originally posted the images because I thought they might help us win some commercial photography work from companies looking for gritty portraiture. So after the book was published I mailed several copies out to clients and prospects as a self promotion. The mailing brought in several photography jobs and another book publishing job for a major Fortune 500 company.
Somewhere along the way, I entered the book in the Houston Ad Federation’s annual award contest in three categories: agency self-promotion, book design and black and white photography. It won Gold awards in all three categories. By virtue of that, it automatically advanced to the American Advertising Federations regional award ceremony in all three categories. There, it won two more gold awards (I’m still trying to figure out which categories it won.)
This region covers Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana – the entire south/central portion of the United States.
Next, the book advances to the AAF national competition in New York.
It’s hard to talk of the images in the Uptown book and “advertising” in the same sentence. It almost seems disrepectful to the trials and tribulations that some many Uptown residents suffered through in the mid-1970s after the OPEC oil embargo. But at least you know the back story.
These awards are quite an honor in our industry. The American Advertising Federation contest draws more entries each year at its various levels (local, regional, national) than any other awards competition. Typically, the contest draws more than a hundred thousand entries. To win so many awards in so many tough categories against such stiff competition is a tribute to the power of the Uptown images and the fine people who allowed me to create them.
Thank you all for helping a lifelong dream come true. Stay tuned to see how the book does at the national level.
If you haven’t yet purchased the book, we still have about a thousand copies left from the first printing. You can buy an autographed copy through this web site, or plain copies through Amazon or BarnesAndNoble.com. Please tell your friends about it.