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Extended Edit: Chicago Fire, Cliques

Photographer Daniel Shea
May 08, 2013
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    In our annual photography issue, we usually showcase multiple essays from different photographers. This year, we dedicated all that space to a single feature by Daniel Shea. Last year, Shea photographed our cover story on Chicago’s drill scene, focusing on the young rapper Chief Keef and members of his local-clique-cum-record-label Glory Boyz. Now, returning for a month to the same neighborhoods, Shea looks at the city’s South Side from the perspective of teenagers whose careers haven’t spirited them away from their home blocks. Shea returned from his month on the South Side with more photos than we could ever fit into the magazine. We'll be publishing our favorite outtakes here all week, along with conversations between Shea and FADER's photo editor, Geordie Wood. Today, they talk about cliques and surveillance in public housing developments.

    A clique in Chicago is a group of people from a specific block—smaller then a proper gang, but with a similar identity and purpose. Friction between cliques is a common cause of violence among kids in Chicago. Today, we look at a clique called the Blockheadz and surveillance in Chicago's Marshall Field Garden Apartments, where its members live.

    What is a clique? There’s an impression of violence being specifically a gang problem, gangs being traditionally large groups of people that are highly organized and involved in drugs and violence in a systematic way. But over the last 10-15 years gangs became decentralized and broke up into smaller groups of people. They all might be affiliated with a larger idea, the Bloods or the Crips or something, but aren’t actually a gang in the proper sense. Cliques, generally boys and sometimes girls, are based more on where they grew up and who they know. What’s there’s less of an initiation process than with traditional gangs. It’s more of just being born or by default affiliated with the clique based on where you live and who you know. A clique is not always explicitly based on drugs. It’s a social relation thing more than anything else. People in the Blockheadz, who I spent the most time with, would interchange the words clique with family. It’s a bond for these guys. There’s some loose hierarchies: some people just hustle or deal drugs or whatever. There’s guys that are quiet and doing their own thing, guys that didn’t want to talk at all. The Blockheadz are focused on getting their name out through YouTube, doing videos and building their rap identity. FADER is a music magazine, they wanted to talk to me because of the visibility. A lot of these young people are obsessed with music. That’s still their way out. That’s what they're working on. Everything is motivated by music. That’s not arbitrary.

    The Blockheadz live in Marshall Field Garden Apartments, where biometric access devices monitor people coming in and out. Are those security precautions effective? The whole place is locked down These are poor people, mostly just families. The system to get in and out, and to check in and out visitors feels like prison. It’s insane to me that people have to do all this shit to get in and out of their house. It was a really involved process to get me in there. Security was skeptical, probably because I was a white guy with a lot of bags. As far as I could tell there was no back way to get in. It’s not like there’s not violence outside of Marshall Field Gardens. I think that whoever owns the property surrounding them just freaks out and feels like this security is the only option. But it just makes the problem way worse, because it creates resentment.

    Extended Edit: Chicago Fire, Cliques