Michael L. Abramson (1948-2011) was an American photographer best known for his striking series of black and white photographs from the mid-1970s documenting the nightlife of black clubs on Chicago's South Side. Though the time and place differs, their mood recalls the night life captured by Brassaï in the clubs of Paris during the early decades of the 20th century.

His nightlife photographs from the 1970s earned Abramson a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1978 and eventually resulted in a beautiful hardbound book, Light: On the South Side, housed in a slipcase along with a 2 LP set featuring Chicago blues as heard from the stage and the jukebox (Numero Group 2009, Grammy-nominated). In 2015, CityFiles Press published Gotta Go Gotta Flow, which paired a unique collection of Abramson's South Side photos with new work by the acclaimed poet Patricia Smith.

In addition to his South Side series, he also explored ballrooms and dance halls in the late 1970s, and "camera night" at the Festival Theater, a strip club in Chicago (1978-1980). In 2003, Abramson documented the citizens, cars, and housing of Cuba. From the 1980s until his death in 2011, Michael was a successful freelance photographer, whose work was regularly featured in Time, Newsweek, Forbes, Fortune magazine, and other national news outlets.

His photographs can be found in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago History Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, and the California Museum of Photography.


Michael Abramson, 2009