Assignment: Photographing the schools CPS shut down

EDITOR’S NOTE: As Chicago Public Schools students walked to new schools after a summer of unprecedented school closings, the Chicago Tribune's photo staff kept their lenses on those scenes -- while Tribune photojournalist Brian Cassella captured gritty images of the shuttered schools left behind:

"I started this weekend by making a list of sites," Brian emailed Monday afternoon, six hours in and halfway through. "CPS closed 49 schools, but because of a variety of factors (some schools closing next year, charter schools opening, buildings being shared and moves), I found 38 buildings that are empty today. I mapped a route from the North side to the West, South and East. I also tried to learn something about every school's history for my captions.

The Tribune's photos of the first day of school for the 2013-14 school year are here. But Brian's school photos were being posted to Instagram.

"Almost all the schools are locked and blinds drawn, so the inside photos are the few places I can see through the windows.

"So far, most buildings are devoid of people entirely. But they're not empty yet, so it's almost like the people all vanished at once and I'm wandering a barren landscape.

"I'm looking for signs of students and life, and also at the architecture. There are beautiful hundred-year-old classical brick buildings, squat 1960s creations and some modernist gems on the list later on.

"I'm posting through Instagram, Twitter and a Tumblr blog to share the images and the journey in real time. And also for speed: I'm only spending about 5 minutes out of the car at each stop in order to make it all of them.

-- Brian Cassella


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