Whether survivors of the housing crash, stubborn holdouts during a land grab or loners in empty corridors of the city, the subjects of David Schalliol’s Isolated Building Studies standout in the Chicago landscape. Stark and centered, his photos, which were recently collected in a book, appear as a series of character studies of urban monoliths.
“I’m focused on how to visualize social and economic changes,” says the University of Chicago Ph.D. student, who studies sociology and urban communities. “To me, these houses standing on their own represent clear ways of getting into important discussions about how larger economic forces influence the constitution of our cities.”
Since 2006, Schalliol has snapped photos of these lonely buildings on Chicago’s south and west sides. In some ways, it's documentary proof of how the foreclosure crisis—which often leads to evictions, buildings stripped of material and banks considering demolition—has meant that in neighborhoods like Englewood, 20 percent of the homes are vacant. What started as a way to get his bearings and learn about the neighborhoods around him has informed his photos projects and given him a lens to view other urban environments.
“It’s helped me understand Chicago,” Schalliol says, “and it also really influences the way I see other cities. I look for similar patterns. It helped me build out a typology of urban forms, in a way, it helps influence the way I see what’s going on in other cities.”