Tag Archives: Chicago Photographers

Wilbur Holmes: images of the West Side with Grit and Grace

photo by wilbur holmes, circa mid 1970s

Carlos of Surplus of Options (a smokin’ hot Antique/Resale shop full of curiosities here in Chicago) found these pictures… in fact, he picked up dozens of them… at a West Side Junk shop for almost nothing. I was immediately struck by the photos, both for their composition and tone. I bought the pictures from him with the promise that I’d share them with Darkjive readers.

All of the photos came from the same lot and are presumed to have been taken by one Wilbur Holmes (who apparently had a way with the ladies, based on the subject matter of many of his shots). A good number of his photos had West Side subject matter, such as the Garfield Conservatory and Malcolm X College. At first, the photographer was a mystery. Only one shot (not pictured here) had his name embossed in the corner.

A bit of research turned up that Mr. Holmes worked for the post office for 40 years (as well as being a self-employed photographer).

I found some of his shots published in Jet Magazine, during the 1970s (image below from the March 4, 1971 issue).

He was a First Lieutenant in the Army in World War II, and he died in 1991. If you know/knew Mr. Holmes and have more info, please share it here in the comments section. I’m so grateful that Darkjivers are so good at sharing…

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John H. White: Five Minutes of Light


Chicago-based photographer John H. White (whose work has been highlighted here many times) was awarded the Pulitzer for general excellence in photography in 1982. This general excellence award is no longer awarded. This is the story of the photo (above) that won him his award.

Mr. White was assigned to go to a local dance school to take some pictures on a cloudy day. He didn’t want to use unnatural light (such as a flash) for his photos, so White prayed to God that he would have an afternoon of light. He didn’t get it. Next, he prayed for 15 minutes of light. Still nothing.john_white

“How about 5 minutes of light, God?” he asked. And then, suddenly, a ray of light that came piercing through one of the studio’s windows and he took his pictures.

“I asked for five minutes of light and He gave me a Pulitzer Prize.”

In celebration, it’s Chicago’s Staple Singers with “Uncloudy Day” from 1959.  Released on local Vee Jay Records, it features haunting echoey guitar licks, other-worldly harmonies, and beautifully sparse acoustic production.  The song also forged a brand of socially-conscious gospel that The Staples would eventually be known the world over for.