TOKYO-2016 Portfolio / Personal

Back of the Yards

  • Prize
    Bronze in Portfolio/Personal
  • Photographer
    Megan E. Doherty

For nearly four years, I have documented the last remaining member of a tiny street ministry that tends to those involved in, and victimized by, gang violence on the South and West Sides of Chicago, IL, USA. Jim Fogarty, known affectionately as "Brother Jim," wears a hand-sewn habit made out of scraps of denim, now tattered after over 30 years of use. That's how long he's been traversing the streets by foot, carrying only rosary beads to pass out - that, and offering prayers, and maybe a little hope. His path across the city is broad, and the Back of the Yards neighborhood on Chicago's South Side is my primary vantage point. The area, which takes its name from its proximity to the old Union Stock Yards (former hub of the U.S. meatpacking industry), was where 13 people were shot while playing basketball in a park in September 2013. By now, the residents largely all know who he is, and often come running when they see him coming down the street, or call out from their windows, asking him to pray for them. Once upon a time, he stood between warring gangs shooting at each other, bullets whizzing by, risking his life. Now, they ask him for rosaries. Through Jim, I've gained access to a community commonly stereotyped or overlooked, while being challenged by the gaze they offer back. In an effort to neither whitewash nor sensationalize, I've taken care to attend to all those moments that, while difficult or simply mundane and easy to ignore, are also sublimely beautiful.