Issues of income inequality and poverty in the United
States were always part of the narrative, but were brought
to a head by today?s political climate, Wolin said. In a
program aired on President Trump?s Inauguration Day,
the German public TV network ZDF interviewed some of
the people that Wolin photographed in Pigeon Hill. Many
of the interview subjects believed that neither candidate
had their best interests at heart. Though disillusionment
with the American dream would seem justified in places
like Pigeon Hill, Wolin points out that the political views
of the people there are not monolithic.
Those of Wolin?s subjects who could vote - many were
convicted felons, who believed that they were unable to do
so by law - did not always fit into the media narrative about
rural voters. ?What I found interesting in the [German]
piece was the number of people from the Hill who said
[Trump] has no interest in helping people like me,? Wolin
Wolin recalls the story of Tim, one of the kids he originally
photographed on the Hill, as a particularly powerful
narrative. ?He was called Timmy as a kid ? in his
photograph he?s holding a ferret that?s kissing him, or it
looks like it?s biting him,? Wolin said. ?He was just a kid
that everyone liked, and I photographed him more than
In the follow-up photograph, Wolin visited the Wabash
Valley Correctional Facility to photograph him in prison.
Timwas incarcerated for failing to pay child support. Wolin
says that his experience reuniting with Tim opened the
door to learning about injustices within our prison system.
?I started to learn about the American treatment of poor
people and how basically everything they do is criminalized,?
Wolin said. ?Should you pay child support? Yes, of course.
Can you pay child support when you?re in prison? No, you
can?t. Can you see your kids when you?re in prison? No,
you can?t. You can?t even call them on the phone because
everything is privatized.? With the increasing privatization
of American prisons, the people who can least afford it are
being charged for basic services.
Timwound up serving seven years altogether. After he left
prison, his life took a turn for the better; he found a job
at Indiana University and got married. Wolin, of course,
volunteered to photograph the happy occasion.
Though there are some stories of success, Wolin reports
that overall, conditions in Pigeon Hill have more or less
stayed the same. He emphasizes that although community
organizations and mentorship programs have helped
improve life for people on Pigeon Hill, growing up in
housing projects puts individuals at a disadvantage. Wolin?s
longitudinal series of photographs exemplifies the reality
that it is difficult to escape systemic economic inequality.
?Everybody that lives there now says it was so great back
then,? Wolin said. ?People change, and as you get older
everything seems better back in the old days. It looks pretty
much exactly the same. Some people have left to hopefully
better conditions; some people now live in trailer parks out
in the country; some people are homeless; some people are
imprisoned; and some who have stayed have made better
lives.?The range of narratives Wolin captures in
Then and Now
demonstrates the complexity of the rural
Kym w/ Caesarean Scar, Woodland Springs Apartments
, 2013, Jeffrey Wolin. Courtesy of the artist.
?Though there are some stories of
success,Wolin reports that overall,
conditions in PigeonHill havemore
or less stayed the same.?