There is no more genial occupation for a street photographer who needs money than cab driving, which William Purvis discovered after he had taken up the job to allow him to survive as a blues musician. Shooting in black-and-white wherever his taxi takes him, Purvis does not document Chicago, but is drawn to peaceful, somber or morose scenes—depending on the viewer’s sensibility—populated by isolated people who seem worn down—even in his study of a little girl skipping down the sidewalk as a woman stands against a utility poll up the street. Purvis’ signature effect is achieved by his softly focused and deeply shadowed silver gelatin prints, and by shooting his subjects at a distance, depersonalizing them. Purvis’s banner shot shows an old man straining with a bag of rock salt in the doorway of a grimy storefront on Armitage Avenue during one of our sweet home’s familiar filthy-wet snow falls. (Michael Weinstein)
William Purvis, “Taxi Cab Diaries,” shows at Apollo Theater, 2540 North Lincoln, through September 14.