Tom Palazzolo (1937) was born in St. Louis, MO in 1937. His interest in painting led him to move to Chicago in 1960 and begin studying at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he also studied photography with Kenneth Josephson. Ken encouraged Tom’s interest in filmmaking, and Tom was given use of a Bell and Howell 16mm camera that had been donated to the department by a veteran WWII cameraman. Tom’s first films were completed shortly after his graduation with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in photography in 1965. At this time, he also began teaching art and photography at Richard J. Daley College.
In the 1960s Tom was associated with a group of “underground” filmmakers and in 1968 had a one-person film show at MOMA. That same year he married Marcia Daehn. Tom was then hired in 1969 by the US Information Agency (USIA) to show and discuss American independent films in the Middle East. His mission was to show how American democracy allowed for greater freedom and creativity than other forms of government. Before leaving on the tour, the Washington office informed Tom that he should NEVER mention the United States’ then-involvement in Vietnam.
Tom has continued making and showing documentary films right up to the present, including a portrait of homeless street artist Lee Godie currently in the works. In 2018, his work was part of the Art Institute of Chicago’s “Never a Lovely So Real: Photography and Film in Chicago, 1950-80” exhibition. He has also been featured at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Lincoln Center, Robert Flaherty Film Seminar, Museum of Contemporary Art, the New Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago, Gene Siskel Film Center, and the Walker Art Museum, among other venues.
Tom has been the recipient of grants and awards from the American Film Institute, National Endowment for the Arts, Illinois Arts Council, Center for New TV, Illinois Academy of Art, and the Andy Warhol Foundation, as well as a National Film Preservation Foundation grant to preserve a selection of films in 2006. His work has been reviewed by Roger Ebert (Sun-Times), Gene Siskel (Tribune), New York Times, Variety, Village Voice, and London Times, among others, and has screened at festivals including the Chicago International, Ann Arbor, New York, Cannes (out of competition), Edinburgh, and more. Tom has had retrospectives at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in 1977 and at Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art in Berlin, Germany, in 1989 –Chicago Film Archive
- Pigeon Lady (1966), 16mm, color/b&w, sound, 26 min
- Love It / Leave It (1970), 16mm, color, sound, 14 min
- Jerry’s Deli (1976), 16mm, color, sound, 9 min
Screening format: HD (new digital transfers courtesy of Chicago Film Archive)
Special thanks to Tom Palazzolo, Chicago Film Archive, Matt Schwarz and Olivia Babler