Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Art Shay  

Pen Name: None


Audience: Adult; Young Adult; Children; Children;

Born: in Bronx, New York

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Illinois Connection

Art lives in Chicago.

Biographical and Professional Information

Mr Shay has published some 60 books since coming to Illinois in 1948. A great friend of the famous Illinois writer Nelson Algren. He completed two books on his friend and their shared love of Chicago - ''Chicago's Nelson Algren''. Art worked first as a reporter where he had a weekly column in various papers and then as a photographer for numerous publications. He has published over 10,000 photographs in magazines including ''Life'', ''Fortune'' and ''Sports Illustrated.'' He has also written a play, ''Where Have You Gone, Jimmy Stewart'' that was produced by Chicago’s American Theater Company (ATC) in 2002 and also published several books on photography and sports.Shay also wrote a terrific autobiography "Album for an Age" and published two coffee table books with the University of Illinois press titled "Couples" and "Animals."

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

NELSON ALGREN'S CHICAGO (Visions of Illinois)
ISBN: 025201586X

University of Illinois Press. 1988

A collection of photographs depicts life on Chicago's west side between 1949 and mid-1960s

Album for an Age: Unconventional Words and Pictures From the Twentieth Century
ISBN: 1566633273

Ivan R. Dee, Publisher. 2000

In forty-five years as one of America's liveliest photographers for Life, Time, and other assignments, Art Shay has established a world-wide reputation for capturing the oddities of the moment. His photographs of Khrushchev, Liberace, Harry Truman, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Nelson Algren, George Solti, and hundreds of other luminaries are not the usual portraits they are people off-guard, memorable for their humanity rather than their celebrity. But, unlike other great photographers of his time, Art Shay has a way with words. His prose is sharp, vivid, and evocative, the product of a well-nurtured mind and a cultivated intellect. In Album for an Age he puts both his words and his pictures to work, and the result is a delightful, entertaining, thoughtful, and sometimes wacky sightseeing tour of many of the major personalities and events of the last fifty years. "Daumier," Mr. Shay writes, "taught me to aim my predatory camera at the contumely, at snobbery, pretensions, cruelty, and the machinery of petty power." Some of it, though, he can't help liking all of it he writes about with wit and insight. Here is a marvelously unconventional book by an unconventional photographer—not a picture book but a book with pictures.

ISBN: 0252027426

University of Illinois Press. 2002

A collection drawn from five decades of the photographer's work celebrates animals with humans in natural and domestic settings, from the image of a man passing a peanut to a monkey to a pig drinking a can of beer, in a volume that also seeks to reveal the animal within human beings.

ISBN: 0252028368

University of Illinois Press. 2003

In the 120 photographs in Couples, Shay shows us couples in love - walking, talking, kissing, embracing, dining, arguing - as well as many other pairings, human and non-human, whose relationship he has skillfully crystallized in a single instant of interaction. Inanimate air vents and grain silos, as well as parents and children, siblings, friends, neighbors, famous actors and athletes, unknown passersby, dogs, and livestock. All these rub shoulders - so to speak - in the pages of Couples, sought out by Shay's keen eye and coupled forever by his impertinent camera.

Chicago's Nelson Algren
ISBN: 1583227644

Seven Stories Press. 2007

They met in 1949 when Art was a reporter for Life. Shay followed Algren around with a camera, gathering pictures for a photo-essay piece he was pitching to the magazine. Life didn’t pick up the article, but Shay and Algren became fast friends. Algren gave Shay’s camera entrance into the back-alley world of Division Street, and Shay captured Algren’s poetry on film. They were masters chronicling the same patch of ground with different tools.
Chicago’s Nelson Algren is the compilation of hundreds of photos—many recently discovered and published here for the first time—of Nelson Algren over the course of a decade and a deeply moving homage to the writer and his city. Read Algren and you’ll see Shay’s pictures look at Shay’s photos and you’ll hear Nelson’s words.


He has won some 20 Art Director Awards for distinguished photography.

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