Former mayoral photographer connects city history through images
When László Kondor flew from his home in Hungary to UIC earlier this month, he didn’t travel lightly.
Kondor, the former official photographer for the late Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, brought with him 32 pounds of photography negatives and duplications — about 4,000 images — to donate to UIC Daley Library archives.
“This material really belongs to you, the people of Chicago, not just me,” he said.
Kondor immigrated to Chicago from Hungary in 1961, then received a fellowship to study international relations at the University of Chicago.
He began his photojournalism career chronicling the antiwar movement, the 1968 Democratic Convention and race riots after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. He was a combat photographer with the U.S. Army in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970, then photographed the war for the Department of Army Special Photographic Office until 1972.
After his discharge, Daley’s press secretary, Frank Sullivan, offered Kondor a job as the mayor’s official photographer, a job he held until Daley’s death on Dec. 20, 1976.
“Until then, he never had a photographer,” Kondor said. “All kinds of people took photos of him, really haphazardly.”
Kondor often photographed Daley in his office but also traveled with him to press conferences and political events.
“He was always on the go, visiting somebody, doing something,” he said. “I had a relatively free hand covering Daley. After a year or so, they trusted me.”
Daley was a “terribly private man,” Kondor said.
“When he went home to his relatively modest bungalow, very few people ever stepped foot inside,” he said. “Home was for home life.
“He was a very businesslike person and he was very good with people. I never saw him without his jacket — he was an extremely formal man.”
The image that Kondor treasures most is Daley’s official portrait — his signature photo.
“He never would have sat for an official portrait,” Kondor said. “I had to sort of sneak up on him.”
After the mayor’s death, the political changeover was very disorganized, Kondor said.
“A good part of my photos got tossed out by some clumsy people,” he said. “I grabbed the photos I found and kept them.”
Kondor ran a commercial photography studio in Chicago until 1996, when he returned to Hungary. He is retired but still takes photos that capture Hungarian life, exhibiting his work.
The photos will be added to the Richard J. Daley collection, which includes photos and papers generated and received during Daley’s time in office. The collection is available for viewing in UIC Special Collections, 3-330 Daley Library.
“His photos are a wonderful complement to the Daley papers collection,” said Peggy Glowacki, archival operations and reference specialist.
“To make it possible to visualize what the mayor looked like during that time, and what the city looked like, is tremendously helpful for university researchers.”