Chicago photographer Art Shay—the same man who photographed royalty, presidents, sports figures and historical moments like the 1968 Democratic Convention—now presents us with a collection of photographs featuring his “beloved wife and model,” and owner of Titles, Inc. for more than thirty years, the sprightly Florence Shay.
One of the very first photographs in “My Florence: A 70-Year Love Story,” is from the Shays’ 1944 honeymoon, in which a twenty-two-year-old Art in U.S. Air Force uniform looks upon his beaming bride with enormous adoration in his eyes, clearly enamored. He looks grateful to be in such close proximity to someone so beautiful and full of life. The photographs in Shay’s latest collection portray his late wife’s brimming effervescence in that same spirit of reverence and love.
Shay aims his lens at Florence at home, around town and traveling the states. At home, she blows bubbles on the porch, doles out birthday cake to kids in party hats, oversees their children at play with pet ducks in the yard, and lights Chanukah candles with grandchildren. Around town, Florence beams a radiant smile through the window of her 1955 DeSoto, waits patiently for the “kids to use up their coins” at a carnival, heads a conga line at some fantastic outdoor party, and stands proudly in front of her bookshop. Journeying across the country, Florence poses like a pinup girl next to Las Vegas Hacienda, plucks at a ukulele on a balcony in Hawaii, and sleeps angelically in a 1964 wagon with kids at play in the back.
As Shay takes us on this sentimental journey, chronicling his life and times with Florence, local and even national celebrities inevitably find their way into the frame: Nelson Algren, Studs Terkel, Billy Corgan and Eleanor Roosevelt. The city of Chicago also makes cameos, serving as backdrop for many of the photographs starring Florence. All of these images culminate in telling a narrative of the Shays’ years together, filled with family, friends, celebrities, celebrations, adventures and, at the center of it, a lifelong love. (Amy Danzer)
“My Florence: A 70-Year Love Story”
By Art Shay
Seven Stories Press, 96 pages, $14.95