Robert Rehak of Rehak Creative Services on His Book of Chicago Uptown Photos

Rehak Creative ServicesRobert Rehak, founder of Rehak Creative Services, received an unexpected surprise recently when photos from the 1970s that he recently published online went viral. Before establishing Rehak Creative Services, Robert Rehak worked as a creative director at agencies in Chicago, Dallas and Houston. Below, he shares the unlikely story of how these compelling photos were “rediscovered.”

A Gathering of Experts: When did these photos gain a new life?

Robert Rehak, Rehak Creative Services: A woman named Joanne Asala, who resides in Chicago, is the editor of CompassRose.org. She stumbled across these photos when she Googled “Uptown images” and then requested permission to post a couple of them on her blog earlier this summer.

A Gathering of Experts: What drew her to these images?

Robert Rehak, Rehak Creative Services: Her blog focuses on the history of Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. After she published a story about the images, other blogs like UptownUpdate.com also found them. News of the images spread from there.

A Gathering of Experts: How would one describe the Uptown neighborhood?

Robert Rehak, Rehak Creative Services: In the 1920s, Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood had been a popular entertainment district for the city’s rich and famous. However, things had changed dramatically by the 1970s.

A Gathering of Experts: How so?

Robert Rehak, Rehak Creative Services: Uptown had become a crumbling ghetto for poverty- stricken residents of Chicago.

A Gathering of Experts: What’s the title of this book?

Robert Rehak, Rehak Creative Services: The working title is Uptown: Portrait of a Chicago Neighborhood in the Mid-1970s.

A Gathering of Experts: How will the book be structured?

Robert Rehak, Rehak Creative Services: The book will focus on the images from the 1970s, along with an introduction and captions that will put them into a historical perspective.

A Gathering of Experts: What’s the impetus behind publishing this book?

Robert Rehak, Rehak Creative Services: These photos depict a once-proud neighborhood that had hit rock bottom.

A Gathering of Experts: What’s the current status of the Uptown neighborhood?

Robert Rehak, Rehak Creative Services: It appears that Uptown is slowly bouncing back and once again developing into a more attractive area.

A Gathering of Experts: How much traffic was driven to your website?

Robert Rehak, Rehak Creative Services: Before this blog post, BobRehak.com had welcomed around 100 visitors each day. Within 24 hours of this CompassRose post, traffic exploded to nearly 10,000 visitors.

A Gathering of Experts: Remarkable numbers.

Robert Rehak, Rehak Creative Services: Exactly. That’s more than 100 times the regular rate just from this one link.

A Gathering of Experts: Were there messages from former residents of Uptown?

Robert Rehak, Rehak Creative Services: Many site visitors who once lived in Uptown emailed to say how this photo portfolio brought back bittersweet memories of their time in the area. Some even inquired about purchasing prints.

A Gathering of Experts: Are they the main audience for this book?

Robert Rehak, Rehak Creative Services: They’re one of the main audiences. But the images have also interested people who live in Uptown today and want to learn more about its past.

A Gathering of Experts: Are there others?

Robert Rehak, Rehak Creative Services: Photographers, especially those who appreciate documentary photography, social activists, artists, urban planners. And people who are just plain interested in how such a great neighborhood could sink so low and defy the normal process of redevelopment.

A Gathering of Experts: Have readers of your blog volunteered any answers to that question?

Robert Rehak, Rehak Creative Services: Yes, the project has turned into sort of a collaborative history. Since word of the collection has spread, I get emails daily from people in the photographs.  They are providing information about how they came to Uptown and how Uptown affected their lives. They’re also helping to define the locations in the photos.

A Gathering of Experts: Why is that important?

Robert Rehak, Rehak Creative Services: There’s tremendous interest in seeing how things have changed. With precise locations, I’m able to link to Google Maps Street View in my blog.

A Gathering of Experts: Has your website sustained that initial interest?

Robert Rehak, Rehak Creative Services: Yes. Through daily updates we attracted more than 1.5 million hits in the first month since going viral.

A Gathering of Experts: What other lessons did you learn that might be applicable for Rehak Creative Services?

Robert Rehak, Rehak Creative Services: Content is king. Marketing communications professionals need to devote more time to creating quality content…

A Gathering of Experts: That makes sense.

Robert Rehak, Rehak Creative Services: Fresh and relevant content is what makes viral communication happen.

Based in Houston, Rehak Creative Services is an award-winning advertising agency. Rehak Creative Services produces effective communications to help clients build sales. Rehak Creative Services roster of local and international clients includes Halliburton, TransCanada and ChevronPhillips.

 

 

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