WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT THE BOOK
“In They All Fall Down: Richard Nickel’s Struggle to Save America’s Architecture (1994), Cahan presented an eloquent biography of Chicago photographer and pioneering architectural preservationist Richard Nickel (1928-72). Nickel devoted himself to photographing the works of world-renowned architect Louis Sullivan, a mission that turned macabre as one revolutionary building after another was wantonly demolished, and Nickel died in the wreckage of Sullivan’s once-magnificent Stock Exchange Building.
Cahan and coauthor Williams now present a stunning and heart-wrenching collection of 200 never-before-seen photographs by a man of vision and conviction. A student of Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind, Nickel shot covertly prayerful street scenes and portraits. These unexpected gems are followed by a unique and disquieting collection: Nickel’s brilliantly composed, extraordinarily detailed, and grandly dimensional photographs of what should have been landmark buildings, pictured both whole and in ruins.
Thanks to Cahan and Williams, the losses Nickel so precisely documented are balanced by Nickel’s recovered and profoundly evocative photographs, works that testify to the need for preservation, and stand as works of art embodying an elegiac beauty.”
“The 250 duotones included in the extraordinary new Richard Nickel’s Chicago provide a moving portrait of mid-century Chicago poignantly captured in the volumes subtitle, “Photographs of a Lost City.”
Nickel’s Chicago poignantly conveys what we what we’ve lost and captures the enduring beauty of what’s still here to save, from the Rookery and the Monadnock right down to their modernist successors, the John Hancock Building and Marina City, part of a generation that has now, in its turn, also grown aged and vulnerable.”
“It is a revelation, then, to discover that his camera was also drawn to living things, and to come upon so many in Richard Nickel’s Chicago: Photographs of a Lost City is to appreciate Nickel on a new level. Lovingly compiled by Richard Cahan and Michael Williams, the book offers a number of architectural photos but, as you can see from the small sampling on these pages, it also offers striking portraits of people.
It can be argued that Nickel’s death at 43 was the catalyst for the local preservation movement that has saved many, if not enough, of Chicago’s architectural treasures from developers’ greed and the wrecking ball. But I remember that at his memorial service one of his friends put Nickel’s life in simple terms. He called him “a poet with a camera.” On these pages and in this book we have the proof.”
“Richard Nickel’s Chicago, featuring about 200 of his previously unpublished images, reminds us all over again of his staggering, literally life-and-death commitment that continues to this day.
Occasionally Nickel finds a rhapsodic interlude of pure poetry, as in his exquisite image of the elegantly twisting interior staircase of Burnham & Root’s Rookery. Gazing at it, you’re grateful for this moment of serenity in the midst of a career that brought him so much pain. But you’re jealous too. May we all find work worth dying for.”