“There is something extremely poignant about these pictures: there comes a point where the transience of the laughter and the music, the booze and the cigarettes and the drugs, pushes us into a contemplation of the mortality of the participants, and then on to our own.”


- Nick Hornby, London, Light: On the South Side, 2009

Michael L Abramson was born in New Jersey in 1948, the late American photographer graduated with Master of Photography from Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago in 1977. His work was regularly featured in Time, New York Times, Newsweek, People, Forbes, Harpers, Wall Street Journal and other popular American and international magazines.

He was a highly sought after commercial portrait photographer and photojournalist. His subjects comprised celebrities, prominent stars from sport, politics and the entertainment industry included Bill Clinton, Steve Jobs, Steven Spielberg, Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey and many more.


Yet it was his 1970s series documenting the Chicago South side club scene that made Abramson’s name. Influenced by Brassaï’s photographs of the 1920s Paris, Abramson caught the stylish nightlife of the funk and soul era in full, alluring swing.

His work was exhibited frequently since 1978, including a solo show at Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, in 2014 and in the same year the group show on American Photography since 1950 at Madison Museum of Contemporary Arts (US).

Many of Abramson’s south side prints were published in a photography book/ 2 LP record set entitled Light on the South Side (2009), by Chicago music recording company Numero Group.


Following Abramson’s death in 2011 a new book entitled Gotta Go Gotta Flow: Life, Love, and Lust From Chicago’s South Side was released by Chicago-based Chicago City Files Press (2015).


His photographs are in major collections including the Smithsonian, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago History Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, the California Museum of Photography and various private collections.


“As a graduate student at the Illinois Institute of Technology in the late 1970s, photographer Michael Abramson spent a lot of time in clubs with names like Perv’s House and Pepper’s Hideout. Marked with neon signs and wood-paneled walls, these Chicago joints were the main hubs for the city’s bustling underground jazz, juke, and blues scenes. Gritty and quirky, Abramson’s work is an intimate documentation of this South Side subculture, a community that had largely disappeared by the mid-1980s.”