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David Gremp Photographs

Identifier: spe-n00021

Scope and Contents

This collection contains 69 black and white photographs from thirteen Chicago neighborhoods taken between September 1978 and August 1979. The neighborhoods include: Armour Square (Chinatown), Ashburn (Scottsdale), Austin, Chatham, Hyde Park, Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square, Lower West Side, Pullman, South Lawndale (Little Village), Uptown, Washington Heights and [West] Garfield Park.


  • 1978-1979, 2016


Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection.

Biographical / Historical

Born and raised in Chicago’s south suburbs, David Gremp earned an M.A. in photography at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale in 1978. He has taught at Prairie State College in Chicago Heights, Illinois, and Columbia College in Chicago, Illinois. He has also been the recipient of a humanities grant from the Rockefeller Foundation in 1980 and a completion grant from the Illinois Arts Council in 1982. His photographic exhibitions include: Alibi Fine Art Gallery, Chicago, Illinois (2011, 2013), Prairie State College, Chicago Heights, Illinois (2012) and Calumet Photographic Gallery, Chicago, Illinois (2013).

He began taking this series of photographs in September of 1978 as part of the CETA/Neighborhood Arts Program in Chicago. The Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) was initiated in 1973 as a program to create additional employment opportunities for unemployed and low income earners. Inspired by programs from the 1930s New Deal era such as the Works Progress Administration (WPA), opportunities were opened to artists in several U.S. cities.

As part of this program, David Gremp joined 120 artists-in-residence hired by the Chicago Council on Fine Arts. He was assigned to the Chicago Public Library where he taught photography workshops at various branches and was asked to document the various library facilities along with their corresponding neighborhoods. This amounted to about fourteen neighborhoods in twelve months. The photographs consist mainly of ordinary Chicagoans on the city streets, but also include individuals in the branch libraries, and the architectural styles of neighborhoods and the time period.

Gremp’s choice was to approach all of his human subjects in the same way; by asking them to look directly into the camera. The project produced approximately 100 rolls of film. The library selected 120 black and white photographs to display in the various branch libraries and 40 photographs from this selection were exhibited at Chicago’s Cultural Center in 1980.


1.5 Linear Feet (includes 69 photographs)

Language of Materials



As part of the CETA/Neighborhood Arts Program in Chicago, David Gremp was the artist-in-residence assigned to the Chicago Public Library. His photographs document the neighborhoods surrounding 13 library branch locations including Austin, Chatham, Chinatown, Garfield Park, Hyde Park, Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square, Little Village, Lower Westside, Pullman, Scottsdale, Uptown, and Washington Heights.


The photographs are arranged alphabetically by Chicago 77 Community area where the photograph was taken and alphabetically within by subject description.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Photographs 1.1-1.60 were purchased from David Gremp, 2015. Photographs 1.61-1.68 were transferred from the Chicago Public Library, Pullman Branch and Photograph 1.69 was transferred from the Chicago Public Library, Chinatown Branch.

Related Materials

Austin Community Collection

Chicago City-Wide Collection

Chicago Department of Urban Renewal Records

East Garfield Park Community Collection

Laurie M. Leigh Photograph Collection

Lillian M. Campbell Memorial Collection

Lower West Side Community Collection

Scottsdale Homeowners Association

Akito Tsuda Photographs

West [Near West] Side Community Collection

West Garfield Park Community Collection

Guide to David Gremp Photographs
Michelle McCoy, 2015. Updated and ingested into ArchivesSpace by Michelle McCoy, 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Unit at Harold Washington Library Center Repository

Harold Washington Library Center, 9th Floor
Chicago Public Library
400 S. State Street
Chicago IL 60605 United States
(312) 747-4875