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Chicago photographer reconnects with subjects 30 years later

Chicago photographer and subjects reunite after 30 years
Chicago photographer and subjects reunite after 30 years 02:13

CHICAGO (CBS) — A collection of photos that captured a moment in time 30 years ago in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood is now part of an exhibition at the Chicago Public Library.

Those photos shed new light on the working-class community's roots that continue to thrive today.

It was the late 1980s-early 1990s, and the southwest neighborhood of Pilsen was a cultural and dynamic hub for predominantly Mexican American families.

At the time, Akito Tsuda, a photography student from Japan studying at Columbia College, was soaking it all in.

Despite knowing very little English or Spanish, his camera allowed him to connect.

"I thought if I had a camera, I can really talk to strangers," Tsuda said. 

And he did, first discovering the neighborhood on a routine walk.

"Meeting these great people kept me going," Tsuda remembered. "I said, 'Can I take a picture for my school assignment.' And people thought, 'Hey, this guy needs help.'"

An unexpected friendship blossomed, generating hundreds of striking and intimate images over a four-year period. From candid moments between a father and son to a pair of young ladies getting ready to hit the town, the images were timeless.

It's now part of the exhibition "Akito Tsuda: Pilsen Days" at the Harold Washington Library Center in the Loop. Pilsen Days is open to the public until the end of the year.

"If you look at these images, there are families, there is love, and there are children playing in the street. This is a very universal thing," said Exhibit Curator Oscar Arriola.

For Tsuda, the most rewarding part of this experience has been reconnecting with those original subjects who welcomed him into their neighborhood three decades ago.

One of them is the teenager riding her bike with her young sister outside the now-defunct Windy's Market.

"That is the most beautiful part of this exhibition. I'm so grateful," Tsuda said. 

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