Jeffrey Wolin: Faces of Homelessness

Opening: Friday, Dec 10, 2021 5 – 7:30 pm
Friday, Dec 10, 2021 – Feb 5, 2022

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Image: Jeffrey Wolin, Melodi Serna, Chicago, 2019. From the Faces of Homelessness series. 17 x 22", 24 x 30" pigment print. Editions of 10, 3

Jeffrey Wolin debuts new work at Catherine Edelman Gallery in his fifth solo exhibition, Faces of Homelessness. 

The show opens on December 10 and runs through February 5, 2022. 

There will be an opening reception with the artist on Friday, December 10, from 5 – 7:30 p.m. Face masks will be required to attend.


For more than 30 years, Jeffrey Wolin has combined photographic portraiture with auto-biographical texts, exploring issues about memory, identity, and trauma. Beginning in 1985, Wolin turned the camera on himself, writing personal stories directly on photographs that related to his life. Soon after, he began photographing residents at a housing project in Indiana, Holocaust survivors, and American and Vietnamese war veterans, combining portraits and personal histories directly on the photographic surface. His newest series, Faces of Homelessness, examines the homeless crisis and its complicated realities.

The homeless crisis can be seen across America, in small towns and major cities, on the streets and in shelters. While some people are homeless due to drug/alcohol addiction or mental health issues, an overwhelming percentage are in this situation due to the loss of a job, domestic violence, divorce, sudden medical expenses, lack of affordable housing, and homophobia. And then there are the invisible homeless – families staying in hotels, with relatives, or couch surfing among friends. Wolin worked with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless to understand the situation, mindful to present all aspects. His interactions took him from the viaducts under Lake Shore Drive, to Venice Beach in Los Angeles, and to newly rented apartments. Working in Chicago and Los Angeles, Wolin continues to honor people’s lives through their own words, helping us understand issues often unfamiliar or ignored.

Among the twenty-one images on view is Thomas G, who stated: “First time I was homeless I was 14 years old. I was kicked out of the house. There were 7 of us kids; I was the oldest. My dad died when I was 6, my mom when I was 12. My mom’s brother took us in but I wouldn’t obey the rules. I’ve had housing on and off since then. I’d heard about Uptown Tent City and I wanted to totally get involved. I got a propane stove and tank and I started cooking for the community. There were about 25 of us under Lawrence viaduct and about 20 under Wilson. We help each other. I got elected mayor of Uptown Tent City. I’m homeless but I’m happy. I’m doing what I enjoy doing: helping people.”

Maxica W, who said: “Three years ago I had a double mastectomy and 16 nodes removed from my left arm. I had 6 months of chemotherapy. I was in the process of buying a house but had to use the money for my chemo. e ended up at Olive Branch Mission Shelter. We had our own room but it had no doors. During that time I cared for my kids, took them to school each day. I’ll graduate in May 2019 with a degree in Business Administration and then go on for my Masters. I want to work with homeless and cancer survivors to help them deal with their problems and to pay back what people did for me.”

Cecilia M. explained: “I became homeless January 2, 2020. Me and my 2 kids sleep in the living room at my mom’s house; we don’t have anywhere else to go. My dad gave me an air mattress. Every night I have to pump it up; I have to put the covers and sheets on, give the kids pillows. Every morning I have to take the air out, fold it back up. My goal now is to go back to work and back to school to study child development. I want to work at day care, save money and get an apartment of my own. It’s been 2 months since I left my husband and moved to my parents’ house. Set new goals for your life, especially if you have kids, to show yourself and your kids that Mommy is able to do it.”

The above accounts are just a few examples of how people end up homeless. As Wolin states, “My hope is that my photo/text images can contribute to the public conversation about the causes and possible solutions to some of the difficult issues surrounding homelessness and to gain more understanding of this large but rather vulnerable community.”

CEG, in collaboration with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, will be hosting panel discussions and smaller exhibitions throughout the city in 2022. Please follow our gallery on Facebook and Instagram for announcements.