Jim Iska has been photographing the urban scene for over thirty years. After graduating from the Institute of Design in Chicago in 1980, Iska’s work has revolved around on architecture from the classic to the vernacular, and its integral role in defining the city. He collaborated with author and historian Francis Morrone on a series of architectural guidebooks of New York City, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn in the 1990s. Iska also produced contemporary photography for the first and second editions ofThe City in a Garden: A History of Chicago’s Parks by Julia S. Bachrach. He is currently the author of the blog “In and About the City.”
Jim Iska & Stone Scholastic Academy
Stone Scholastic Academy is a K-through 8 magnet elementary school in the Edgewater neighborhood on the far north side of Chicago. It was our children’s school. While I’ve been around the people in these photographs for years, beyond faces on the playground, I came to know the members of the Stone Graduating Class of 2019 for real when I volunteered to document the production of the school play.
To their credit, once the curtain rose, the teachers in charge of that project sat back and watched as the students managed every aspect of the production. What struck me was the way this group bonded together as a team to make the production a success.
That probably shouldn’t come as a surprise as many of these kids had known each other for nine years or more. That’s a good chunk of one’s life when you’re only fourteen years old.
To help celebrate the milestone of leaving the only school some of them have ever known, I chose to make portraits of graduates on their last full week at Stone. The setting and the choice of the people to be photographed with them, if any, was theirs.
The 2019 class of Stone has dispersed, most of them going on to CPS high schools like North Side Academy, Lane Tech, Jones, Walter Payton, Von Steuben and Senn, while others have moved to the suburbs.
But my guess is the connections they made at Stone will be lifelong.
Jim Iska & Nicholas Senn High School
“…the Senn experience provides students a unique foundation for living, working, thriving, and leading,” Jim Iska, Photographer
The tremendous diversity of Senn is what many students cited to me as one of their proudest features of their school. Forming personal bonds and friendships with people coming from vastly different cultures and interests, (thanks to the addition of the IB program and Senn Arts), the Senn experience provides students a unique foundation for living, working, thriving, and leading in an ever diverse and changing world.
Looking back on my involvement at Senn over the past year, I can’t help being struck by the notion that these students are our future, and that our future is in good hands.
As it has for over a century, Senn stands at the forefront of progressive education. Ella Flagg Young would be proud.