Greek American photographer Diane Alexander White photographs parades. Her work in this show, primarily from the 1970s and early 1980s, shows Americans of various ethnicities turning out for their national parades. A quote from Aristotle on the didactic panel at the show’s beginning, “Human beings are only truly humans when they are together,” sets the tone, and is followed by images providing proof for the theory.
The majority of the images are from Greek Independence Day parades, but many of Chicago’s other nationalities’ parades are represented as well. These grainy black-and-white analogue photographs are nostalgic yet express the candid immediacy of reportage. Upon closer inspection, stories unfold in each.
An elderly woman in a headscarf stares directly at the camera with a mixture of curiosity and disdain while the rest of the crowd watch the Greek Independence Day parade with their backs turned to her. In another, geishas dance with silk fans in Daley Plaza at the Japanese Festival. Two images from the Bud Billiken Parade in Bronzeville are among the best. Young girls smile shyly at the camera while holding aloft large signs honoring Black heroes, and in another, people of all ages line the sidewalk and parkway waiting in anticipation for the parade to fill the vacant street.
Diane Alexander White spent forty years honing her craft photographing parades, during which time she worked at the Field Museum for twenty-five years photographing natural history objects. The difference between one and the other is marked, but her attention to detail in the street photography images is clearly a result of meticulous photographic practice.
All untitled, other than a parade name and a year, the images are an interesting mixture of documentary and sentimentality. In all of them, expectant faces await the parade, proving that Chicagoans of all ages, races and religions share a passion for spectacle and national pride. All, it would seem, love a parade.
“Gather Together: Chicago Street Photography” by Diane Alexander White at The National Hellenic Museum, 333 South Halsted, through April 30, 2023.