Maclovio is a street photographer who shoots demolitions as a hobby. “A passion project,” he calls it. “I pay close attention to demolition and changes throughout Chicago — just as a way to document it,” he said. (We’re not using Maclovio’s last name because he doesn’t want this to affect his day job.)
On Saturday, he ended up at the center of the giant cloud of dust and debris that descended over the Little Village community after the botched demolition of an industrial smoke stack.
The towering smoke stack stood over the former Crawford Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant shut down in 2012 after years of protest by the surrounding Southwest Side community over pollution.
“I’ve never seen an implosion,” said Maclovio. “I mean, I’ve seen all kinds of demolition throughout the city, but I’ve never seen anything where they had to use explosives. So I thought this would be a monumental moment.”
He said he wasn’t prepared for what happened next. Here are his photos and observations from the ground.
Maclovio stationed himself with his camera on a nearby side street around 7:30 a.m. “I was as close as you could get,” he said. “Right around 8 o’clock, you heard a boom, and then the smoke stack toppled over.”
Just after the demolition, “a huge dust cloud came over,” said Maclovio. “I didn’t have a mask on me because I didn’t think that that was going to be an issue.” Maclovio said there were firefighters on site spraying water, “but it was just overwhelming.”
“It was something out of, like, the movies. You could even see little particles in the dust cloud, too. And like you can feel the particles in your mouth, like in your gums, your tongue, the roof of your mouth, like a powdery like substance in your mouth.”
“People were … rushing to get out of the area,” said Maclovio. “I made a makeshift mask and used my jacket. I stayed in the thick of it all, just wandering around the streets for a good 10, 15 minutes.” Maclovio photographed two journalists on the scene as they photographed him.
“I decided that I had to leave because it hurt my lungs breathing that stuff,” said Maclovio. “My chest hurt for like a good 20 minutes, even after I left the area. Most of the day I could still feel it in like my nostrils and my nose.”
“Most demolitions, at least the ones that I’ve seen here in Chicago, are done mainly with tractors, cranes,” said Maclovio. “There’s generally a team of people with hoses that spray the area that’s being taken apart. And there is no dust cloud. … Asbestos, lead — I probably got hit with everything. If I got hit with it, the residents got hit with it too. So, all in all, I would like to know what was in it.”
Maclovio, shown above in a photograph taken by a Chicago Sun-Times photographer, said he’s not an activist. “I guess my role in this is just to archive a moment,” he said. “I’m literally just documenting a moment.”