About the Photographer

Gerken, Meg

American, 1942-2023

For the Changing Chicago documentary project in the late 1980s, Meg Gerken photographed in the Chicago Housing Authority's Henry Horner Homes, focusing on one extended family named the Weisingers. Gerken writes, "The continual interaction and negotiation, the apparent lack of privacy in this large household, so different from the relative solitude of my own home, has long fascinated and puzzled me. My relationship with the Weisingers is crucial: I am a trusted outsider; they represent a faintly known but esteemed 'other.'"

One of the largest documentary photography projects ever organized in an American city, Changing Chicago commissioned thirty-three photographers to document life throughout Chicago's diverse urban and suburban neighborhoods. The project was launched in 1987 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the invention of photography and the 50th anniversary of the Farm Security Administration documentary project, which provides its inspirational model. Changing Chicago honors the tradition of the FSA project, but it moved away from its predecessor's ambition of inspiring social change towards the more general goal of providing a nuanced description of the human experience in a particular geographic area. Sponsored by the Focus/Infinity Fund of Chicago, the project was organized with the support of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum of Natural History, the Chicago Historical Society, and the Chicago Office of Fine Arts, Chicago Public Library Cultural Center. In the spring of 1989 the five institutions mounted concurrent exhibitions devoted to the project.

Meg Gerken holds a BA in literature and philosophy (1964) and an MA in Russian literature and history (1968), both from the University of Chicago. She later went on to complete an MFA in photography at the Art Institute of Chicago (1983). Gerken has worked as a freelance photographer and as a professor of Humanities at Wright College, Chicago.