• Peter Hales

I was sitting in front of a Peter Hales photograph earlier this week when I came upon the Chicago Tribune obituary page and learned that he’d been killed when hit by a car while riding his bicycle.

It happened August 26, in upstate New York, where Hales—a teacher, historian, musician, and author (his latest book, Outside the Gates of Eden: The Dream of America from Hiroshima to Now, was published by University of Chicago Press this year), as well as a photographer—had moved in 2012, a couple years after he retired from the University of Illinois at Chicago faculty.

I barely knew Hales, but I’ve lived with that photo every day since I bought it from him, at least 30 years ago. It was taken at a Chicago Park District boxing match, and you could easily mine it for sociocultural criticism, but the main thing is that it captures a literally decisive moment for two very young sluggers. I don’t think Hales titled it, but it could be The Agony and The Ecstasy. One kid has lost; the other has won, and all the emotion that goes with each of those outcomes is fully on view. I could look at it for another 30 years.

A memorial event is scheduled for noon to 2 PM Sunday at Gallery 400, 400 S. Peoria.