About the Photographer
American, b. 1951
My first experiments with writing directly onto the surface of my photographic prints began in 1985 with a series of autobiographical pieces. The stories were concerned with formative childhood, adolescent, and early adult experiences. This work addressed the creative nature of memory; how we construct recollections of past experiences. —Jeffrey A. Wolin, 1999
Jeffrey Wolin's Autobiography series, just as its title implies, takes as its subject Wolin's personal experiences. In My Mother, one of the later pieces in the series, Wolin recounts his mother's deteriorating memory, how it used to be sharp enough for her to recall her high school studies and help him with his Latin homework, yet she can no longer make sense of an airplane ticket. My Father, from 1986 takes the same narrative arc: describing the parent in old age, presenting one of Wolin's childhood memories, recalling the parent as a vibrant youth, and ending with Wolin's thoughts. Yet while My Father is shot from below so that tan and bare-chested man looks powerful despite crippling arthritis, My Mother takes a very different tone. This time the photographer shoots his subject from above, emphasizing the vulnerability of a diminutive woman who looks particularly small clad in clothing too big for her thin frame. She seems suspended, trapped within the dense text, her arm raised as if in protest. Wolin has also combined text and image to tell the stories of strangers, including Holocaust survivors and Vietnam War veterans. In his own hand, he transposes excerpts from interviews he conducts with his subjects onto the surface of the print.
To create this series, Wolin writes directly on the surface of the photograph with a silver marker, violating, in a sense, the long-revered transparency of the photographic image as well as the integrity of the picture plane itself. Wolin counts among his visual influences illuminated manuscripts and southern folk artists such as Howard Finster and Sister Gertrude Morgan, as well as the autobiographical films of François Truffaut and Federico Fellini.
Jeffrey A. Wolin was born in New York City in 1951. He earned a BA degree from Kenyon College in 1972 and an MFA from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1977. Wolin is the recipient of a Ford Foundation Grant (1981), two NEA Visual Artist Fellowships (1988 and 1992), a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (1991), a US/France Fellowship for residency in Paris (1994), and an ArtsLink Fellowship for travel to the Czech Republic (1994). His work includes the series Autobiography (1985-1992), Pigeon Hill (1987-1991), Written in Memory: Portraits of the Holocaust (1992-1996), and Life at the Millennium: Family Photographs (1996-present). He has participated in several one-person and group exhibitions worldwide. His work is included in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, Arizona; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; Ecole Nationale de la Photographie, Arles, France; Imperial War Museum, London; and the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal, among others. He is a professor of photography and the director of the School of Fine Arts at Indiana University, Bloomington.