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Putting a face in front of Chicago's shuttered businesses


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Hari Sreenivasan:

While layoffs and closings at large companies like Boeing, General Motors, and retailers like J.C. Penney often grab the headlines; small businesses make up nearly half of private sector employment.

Right now, like their big business counterparts, they are struggling -- and often anonymously. But as NewsHour Weekend's Christopher Booker reports, there is a Chicago photographer hoping to bring their plight, into focus.

Christopher Booker: For Chicago photographer Candice Cusic, spring time is wedding time.

For the more than 10 years, the former Chicago Tribune photojournalist has been in high demand capturing wedding nuptials around the city.

Practicing what she calls moment driven photography -- whether during preparations, the ceremony or the after-party - her images are less portrait, and more back stage pass.

When she is not chasing brides and grooms, she is in her studio, with people, families and pets.

Her studio is in the Chicago neighborhood known as West Town, a neighborhood like so many in America that's now closed.

Candice Cusic: Once they issued the lockdown, we locked down. And my business essentially closed.

Christopher Booker: But after she shut her doors, Cusic says, she turned to to what she knows best, her camera shutter.

Candice Cusic: I've been a photographer my whole life, and there's no way I could just sit on the couch during quarantine. I knew there was a story to tell. Also I'm actually photographing these locked down businesses because I am one of them. We need to show our faces at this point.

Christopher Booker: And this is what she has done for the past 9 weeks - taking photos of her neighbors in front of their closed storefronts. Vintage shops, bakeries, hair salons. A sprinkle of everything she says.

She reaches out via email or phone - interviewing store owners before arranging to take their photographs. Working alone and from a distance, she says the whole shoots take about 5 minutes and then posts the pictures and their stories to her Instagram account.

Candice Cusic: What's really great about about this projects thus far is we're all sharing just personal information. I'm asking deep questions. I'm asking what what what are you afraid of right now? And everybody's been really honest and candid with their answers. And the greatest thing is that we all pretty much share the same answers. We're off. We're all fearful.

Christopher Booker: What are they saying that they're afraid of?

Candice Cusic: The biggest concern is that people will forget us and start to shop in big box stores. They're concerned that people might not want to go shopping, period. I think the biggest scare is that the Amazon is going to just take everyone's business from us.

Christopher Booker: What are the business owners telling you about the pictures after you show them?

Candice Cusic: The response has been fantastic with this project, we are all getting to know each other a little bit better. You know, in the in my interviews, some business owners have just cried on the phone and they've been candid about actually sharing this with the public. My biggest fear is a lot of these businesses won't even be in existence after lockdown. That's one of the reasons why I wanted to do this story so quickly is because we don't know who's going to last and we don't know who's going to survive. And we want to protect our memories, and share our stories. We want everyone to know that we were here.


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