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For over 70 years, Art Shay documented his life, combining his gifts of storytelling, humor and empathy with his camera and his writing.

Born in 1922, he grew up in the Bronx and then served as a navigator in the U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II, during which he flew 30 bomber missions and 22 aid missions.

From 1947-1949, while on staff as a writer for Life magazine, Shay wrote hundreds of bylines while helping out some of the greatest of Life's photographers. In 1951, Shay became a Chicago-based freelance photographer, landing thousands of assignments for Life, Time, Sports Illustrated and other national publications.

Shay photographed nine US Presidents & major literary, business, entertainment, science and political figures of the 20th century.

A world class street photographer, Shay wondered throughout Chicago in the 1950s with his friend, author Nelson Algren, the winner of the first National Book Award for his novel, Man With the Golden Arm.

Shay wrote weekly columns for various newspapers, several plays, children's books, sports books and several photo essay books. The photos on this Art Shay Postcard Club website are from his 1967 children’s book titled “What Happens When You Mail a Letter,” the first in a long series of his children’s books.

Erik Gellman’s book, Troublemakers: Chicago Freedom Struggles through the Lens of Art Shay, is set to come out December of 2019.

Shay's photography is included in the permanent collections of museums including the National Portrait Gallery, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art - Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Photography - Chicago. He is the 2017 Lucie Foundation Lifetime Achievement award winner.

Here is New York Times senior staff photographer and founder of Lens, New York Times photgraphy blog, James Estrin’s obituary about Art Shay, May 10, 2018,


“Hang your coat anywhere but keep your keys in your pocket.” Art Shay