The photographer at home Credit: Andrea Bauer

Art Shay

Maybe you’ve heard of Vivian Maier? The “North Shore nanny” who exploded into posthumous fame after thousands of her photos were uncovered virtually by accident? Human empathy shines in Maier’s street photography, the best of which hones in sharply on the eccentric and downtrodden. She’d have had a kindred spirit in Chicago-based photojournalist Art Shay, now 93, whose portraits, like Maier’s, reflect a photographer who sees deep. Though he’s shot the likes of Mohammad Ali and Marlon Brando, it’s Shay’s wife of 67 years, Florence, who really draws out the love stuff in his photos. This spring the Highland Park Art Center exhibit “Art Shay: His Life and Love” displayed a life’s worth of printed celebrities and nobodies alike. There were shots of John Kennedy holding an Indian headdress, Muddy Waters hugging his wife only slightly tighter than his guitar. But the most moving collection revolved around Florence, who died of cancer in 2012. The same week the Art Center exhibit opened, Seven Stories Press published the latest of Shay’s 58 published books, My Florence: A 70-Year Love Story, a celebration of the photographer’s number one passion. And unlike Maier, Shay—who says he doesn’t think much of his late contemporary—is still around to reap the royalties.