John H. White Chicago legend

“Take pictures with the camera of your heart.”

“I’m faithful to my purpose, my mission, my assignment, my work, my dreams. I stay focused on what I’m doing and what’s important. And I keep in flight—I spread my wings and do it.”

Chicago is a city of hard work and hard working people, blue and white collar. Chicago artists are known for their hard work, prolific output, and search for excellence. The list of legendary artists is long. Many are long dead. Some, like Paul Natkin, Shelley Howard, Victor Skrebneski, and Linda Matlow are still producing work.


” Photo: Scott Strazzante/Chicago Tribune

John H. White is a Chicago legend. He started work at the former Chicago Daily News and moved to the Chicago Sun Times in 1978. In 1973-74 the Environmental Protection Agency asked Mr. White to photograph Chicago’s African American life for its DOCUMERICA project.

Mr. White was selected as one of fifty African American photographers for the book, “Songs of My People”, documenting African American life. Mr. White taught at Northwestern and Columbia College. John H. White received the Pulitzer Prize for Photojournalism in 1982 for consistent excellence in a wide range of topics. He also won three National Headliner Awards, was awarded the Chicago Press Photographer Association Photographer of the Year five times, and was the first photographer inducted into the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame. He also received the Chicago Medal of Merit.

Mr. White is an artist, teacher, mentor, deeply spiritual man, and one of the nicest people in the news business you will ever meet. I had the opportunity to meet Mr. White at a photography seminar held at Calumet Photo. We discussed the reportage of violence in Chicago for a few minutes. His lecture was informative, but you could feel there was an element of love in what he was saying. He is a man who truly loves his craft.

The Chicago Sun Times saw fit to reward John H. White’s long career with them by laying him off with all their other photographers. John H. White will not disappear, whine, or complain. Mr. White has something missing in too many people, artists and non-artists alike. Mr. White has a work ethic. It is part and parcel of his moral code. Mr. White will continue to produce excellence. We will continue to benefit from his work.

Another great photographer, Gordon Parks, described freedom as, “Not allowing anyone to set boundaries, cutting loose the imagination, and then making the new horizons.”  John H. White is now free to pursue an even higher plane of artistic creation.

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