Austyn Wyche, an 18-year-old Morehouse freshman from Chatham, didn’t ride the Red Line north of the Loop until he was 16. When he did, to visit a friend, he realized just how deeply segregated Chicago was.
“It intrigued me how once I got to a certain point, I no longer saw people who looked like me,” Wyche, who is black, told Chicagoist. “I was an overwhelming minority on the train.”
Data analysts have documented this phenomenon in their way, annually naming Chicago one of the country’s most segregated cities.
However, Wyche, who first took up photography in eighth grade, captured the phenomenon in a photoset called “Connected Division.” It charts the Red Line’s changing passenger demographics as it goes from 95th/Dan Ryan up to Howard.
Wyche took the photos between December and May of last year. All told, he put in three solid, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. shifts on the Red Line, with a friend who’s “like my brother.”
A Red Line car near 75th stop (Photo by Austyn Wyche)
He shot with assorted DSLR cameras, but “I was really just a fly on the wall,” he said. “I was very discreet. I was in the cut of the train and I had my camera at waist level.”
His fellow passengers only reacted two or three times. Older guys, he said, wanted to talk about the craft of photography. He also got “younger guys asking me if I shot music videos.”
Wyche said that while he never felt like he was treated differently on the Red Line’s north end, “There’s definitely a different vibe.”
“The North Side of Chicago and the South Side of Chicago are two completely different worlds,” he said. “The overall culture of the communities, the amount of wealth that exists within the communities.”
In his photoset, you can really see it.