Photographer Jon Lowenstein loves Chicago. He’s originally from Boston, but his affair with the city started with a real-life relationship: Years ago, he dated a woman from the city’s South Side and spent a lot of time exploring the community. Now Lowenstein, a TED Fellow and member of the NOOR photography collective, lives in the neighborhood himself, and is making it his mission to spread awareness about what’s going on there.

Predominantly African-American, the South Side is home to nearly a million people, and it’s historically been known as a poor part of town. But as wealthier people move into Chicago, longtime South Siders are being priced or pushed out of their homes. As has happened elsewhere, gentrification has led to more violence, particularly among gangs.

In the past year, Lowenstein has increased his efforts to reach a larger audience by posting black-and-white reportage photographs of the city on his Instagram account. Why? He wants to get people outside Chicago to think about the city’s future. “How do you reconcile the place that produces the American president and his wife, yet at the same time leads the country in murders?” he asks.

Below, see 14 of his shots of life on the South Side, along with his commentary.

All photos courtesy of Jon Lowenstein.