Photographer captures Chicagoan faith
Posted Nov. 10, 2006
Rhiannon Mim
For her senior project, art history major Charlotte Neill, also the administrative assistant for the Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office, is serving as the curator for photographer Dave Jordano’s documentary exhibit, “Born Again: African-American Community Churches in Chicago.” The photographs, displayed in the Irene Carlson Gallery in Miller Hall, are Jordano’s attempt to link the viewer to the past and present African-American experience.

A large, metal tub sits at the base of an ordinary white wall with nothing on it except a sign that reads, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”

Walking into a room and seeing this may bring about many different feelings and thoughts, but then again it is only a photograph.

Photographer Dave Jordano’s exhibit titled “Born Again: African-American Community Churches in Chicago,” is currently on display in the Irene Carlson Gallery of Photography located in Miller Hall.

“His work is very clean and clear and it’s an authentic reflection of the community,” Charlotte Neill, exhibit curator, said.

People are truly lucky when they are able to find professions they love and have a passion for.

Jordano is one of these people; his passion has been photography and his love for the art shines through.

With the exception of one photograph depicting a person’s lap, the pictures are absent of people, highlighting the inside of the churches in general.

The storefront churches are plain and simple compared to some of the big and elaborate churches many people are accustomed to.

While many churches are open to anyone, these churches are more private and consist of tightly knit family circles.

“His photographs are very intimate,” said Gary Colby, professor of photography. “It truly is a labor of love.”

These storefront churches, often found in groups of three or four on a single block, were formed when pastors from Southern Baptist traditions came to Chicago.

Jordano said each church possessed an identity that was drawn from the pastors’ own personalities.

The pastors of these congregations form close relationships with their members.

Each church contains different objects that to some people may be worthless, but they are very significant and meaningful to the pastors and congregation.

Jordano said he was interested in documenting the churches because of what they had come to symbolize for their members.

In areas of the inner city where prostitution, crime, drugs and broken families are common, these churches provide something for their members to draw strength from on many different levels.

While many of the people in the different congregations can barely afford their rent and gas bills, they still come to church every week.

“The pastors really give the people a lot of moral and spiritual strength to get them through the week,” Jordano said. “They really bring a lot of hope.”

Jordano said he became interested in photography by chance when he was in the Army.

Now after more than 25 years of commercial photography, in which he has had such clients as Crate & Barrel, Starbucks, Sears, Nestle and Kraft Foods, he has returned to the documentary style of photography that he shot while in college.

Born in Detroit, Jordano now lives and works in Chicago.

He received his bachelor’s of fine art in photography from the Center for Creative Studies in 1974 and opened his own studio three years later.

Jordano has been recognized for his great photography many times.

He received honorable mention in the Houston Center for Photography’s Long Term Fellowship program in 2003 and has been selected to be included in a compilation called “One Hundred Portfolios.”

The completed work will consist of the work from 100 of the leading photographers from around the world.

Jordano is also currently in the process of putting together a book documenting these small black neighborhood churches in Chicago.

For more information visit his Web site at

“Born Again” will be on display through Dec. 3 and consists of 26 different photographs.

Jason Jarvis can be reached at

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