Fred Burkhart

Photographer Fred Burkhart at reception for his exhibition at Alibi Fine Art. Photo by Jim Newberry.

Seventy-one year old photographer Fred Burkhart’s first gallery exhibit opened last month at Alibi Fine Art (where I took the picture above). The photographs were shot over several decades, starting in the 60s, and usually include people living outside the mainstream, including hippies, LGBT activists, KKK members (who Burkhart documented until they beat him up after he told them “I’d join the Girl Scouts before I joined you clowns”), S&M enthusiasts, and indigent street people.

Although Burkhart’s photographs are always humanistic, he seems to seek out the strange–his portrait of neurosurgeon Estelle Toby Goldstein is eerily lit and her head is cocked unnaturally; she glares at the camera with winged eyeliner, cluthcing a disembodied brain. There’s a shot of Jack Kevorkian leaning over to say something to a young girl–tenderly holding her arm–with his comically gruesome paintings in the background (one shows a freshly beheaded figure, blood oozing from the neck). In his portrait of filmmaker Usama Alshaibi, in front of Chicago’s Biograph Theater, a naked woman (Alshaibi’s wife and collaborator Kristie Alshaibi) reclines gracefully atop the box office booth.

The show is up through March 23rd, and is definitely worth seeing. You can read more about fascinating life here, and listen to a recent WBEZ interview here.

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