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Wolin?s method of altering his photographs with handwritten

text is also rooted in the works of Southern folk artists

such as Howard Finster and Sister Gertrude Morgan, who

frequently combined painting and drawing with religious


?What they did was beautiful to me; it wasn?t what the words

said or the specificity of their vision, but it was the way

they combined visual art and writing on a flat surface.? By

imbuing images with written narratives in the style of folk

artists, Wolin made his breakthrough into the art world.

As a photography professor at Indiana University in

Bloomington, Wolin noticed an uncomfortable divide

between the university?s campus and the town that

surrounds it. This tension informs Wolin?s

Pigeon Hill


The shocking 1986 murder of EllenMarks, a former Indiana

University student, in Pigeon Hill brought the nation?s

attention to the conditions in Bloomington?s projects and

hit close to home for Wolin. About a mile away from

campus, Pigeon Hill is located on a bluff overlooking the

west side of town. Wolin?s photographs were taken on a

specific portion of the Hill, called Crestmont ? the housing

projects. Between 1987 to 1991, Wolin took regular trips

to the projects to photograph the residents, many of whom

asked him to take their pictures. He became affectionately

known as ?Picture-Man.?

During this period, Wolin was granted a prestigious

Guggenheim Fellowship, with the hopes that he would

wrap up his portrait series. But the project began to weigh

on him, as he felt that he wasn?t communicating clearly what

the project was and seemed to be repeating himself. ?The

stories were too sad; it seemed like there was no redemption,?

Wolin said. Setting the

Pigeon Hill

project aside, Wolin

began to photograph Vietnam veterans and Holocaust

survivors. His award winning work with Holocaust

survivors in the Midwest was published as

Written in


(1997), and exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago

and the International Center of Photography in New York.

In 2010, another murder, reported only in the local

Bloomington newspaper, would serve as the catalyst for

Wolin?s return to Pigeon Hill. ?It was a 29-year-old woman,

and I recognized her as one of the kids that I photographed.

Her name was Crystal Grubb. I went back and looked in

my boxes and found pictures of her,? Wolin said. After

contacting a friend who worked at the newspaper, Wolin

was able to find Crystal?s parents on the Hill. This led to a

desire to follow up with his old subjects ? starting in 2011,

he re-photographed and interviewed close to a hundred


Many of the original subjects of Pigeon Hill still lived there,

and were happy to see toWolin again. ?When I?d meet with

somebody, we would go through old contact sheets and

they?d identify themselves, their family, their friends. That

was how I re-established my network.? Once in a while,

they would show Wolin a treasured photograph that he

printed for them 20 years earlier. ?They would get excited

about a car in the background, they would identify when

they lived at this address, when this person was alive, or

when someone moved.?The portraits became documents of

personal history, family history, and neighborhood history.

Artist Jeffrey Wolin. Image courtesy of Indiana University.