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Photographer Charles Chamblis depicted the soul of his north Minneapolis neighborhood

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Charles Chamblis photo
Chuck and Jay Foreman, Lake Calhoun, 1983. Part of Minnesota History Center exhibit: "Sights, Sounds and Soul: Twin Cities Through the Lens of Charles Chamblis."
(Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society. Photographer: Charles Chamblis)

The late Charles Chamblis circled his north Minneapolis neighborhood five decades ago with his camera, documenting everything from the smiles of kids on the street to disco dance contests.

Around the neighborhood he was known as ''The Pictureman.'' His photos will be displayed at the Minnesota History Center exhibit: "Sights, Sounds and Soul: Twin Cities Through the Lens of Charles Chamblis." The exhibit runs from April 26 through Feb. 16, 2015 at the Minnesota History Center. The photos were taken between the 1960s and 1980s.

"He was the kind of photographer that was everywhere," said Ben Petry, the exhibit's developer. "He went where he thought the people would be. There's nobody really in the Twin Cities that documented this community in particular, the black community, like Charles."

Chamblis was born in 1927 and died in 1991 of a rare blood disorder, Petry said. 

The more than 60 color images that will be displayed also depict musicians from Maurice McKinnies and the Champions and Edgar Murphy, to the Valdons and Prince.

Charles Chamblis photo
Larry (Spider) J. Hamilton, Fox Trap, Minneapolis about 1980. The photo is part of the Minnesota History Center exhibit: "Sights, Sounds and Soul: Twin Cities Through the Lens of Charles Chamblis." The exhibit runs from April 26 through Feb. 16, 2015 at the Minnesota History Center.
( Courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society. Photographer: Charles Chamblis)

"He had a passion for photography, but he had an even greater passion for people, if you can put it that way," Petry said. "In his pictures, you see a lot of love for life. And his love for people." 

In his interviews with people who knew him, Petry said he repeatedly heard Chamblis described as a caring gentleman, and those qualities showed in his photos. 

"You hear this said about a lot of people, but Charles actually would give you the shirt off his back," Petry said.

Artifacts in the exhibit also include suits worn by Prince and Jellybean Johnson in the movie, "Purple Rain," a snare drum played by Edgar Murphy, and a 24-karat gold-plated microphone used by the Valdons. Old sports equipment from NFL football players will also be displayed.

The exhibit will also feature photos from teens in the community who took inspiration from Chamblis' work during the exhibit opening on April 29, 2014.

Some of the people and locations in the Chamblis photos are unknown. Because the images weren't taken very long ago, the history center staff hopes people can help identify the people and places in the photos.