Washed-up cowboys, lady mechanics, homeless philosophers--photographer Wing Young Huie has seen it all. Now, by hanging 600 of his Lake Street portraits in public, he's ready to show the city to itself.
The workers, meanwhile, have finished mounting the larger-than-life photo. It's the same portrait we saw a few weeks earlier at the print shop. Now, however, the contrast is beautiful. The woman's coat, wrapped tightly around her charge, puts her face and the child's in bold relief. Set on the side of the mammoth brick building, the effect is exhilaratingly stark. Huie is feeling emotional. "Look at the way she's dressed and the way she looks," he says, pointing at his work. "It looks like a photo of Harlem in the Thirties or Fifties. There's something about the way she's looking at you and the way she's holding the girl, like they're one person.
"I've spent so much time imagining it. I get worried, you know. It's just pictures in windows. Maybe they'll get lost. Maybe the photos will get swallowed by the city. This gives me hope."
When the radio reporter has gone and the workers have finished taking down the scaffolding, we walk across the street to stand in a bank parking lot to look at the picture from a distance. On the escarpment between the asphalt and the sidewalk, a man in a soiled corduroy jacket has fallen asleep with his face in his hat. Huie notices that the fence around the building covers the lower half of the photo, so that only the woman's face is clearly visible above it. "You know," he says quietly, "I've been dreaming about this for so long, but I had no idea how it would look. You never know how people are going to see it."
For the first time today, the sun burns through the swollen late-spring sky. We look at the photo for a few minutes, and Huie sees something else he hadn't noticed before: the background catches the sunlight, and the reflected glow becomes a halo around the woman's head. Rising from the ruins of the past, it feels like a blessing on this restless place.