Penny Wolin

Lives and works in the United-states

The Jury chose to give a Special mention to a early-career body of work to Penny Wolin for Guest Register.
Created in 1975 when Penny was twenty-one the work was published by Crazy Woman Creek Press in september 2022

Guest Register

My life process since birth was to be motivated by a question and to get that question answered by relentlessly questioning other people. I am inspired to talk to almost anybody that I deem friendly and interesting. We all have something to say, regardless of how we have lived or how we might die. At age 10, I added a camera to the conversation and at age 21, I added a tape recorder.

I was swept away by a mystical force when I moved into the St. Francis Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard in 1975 and began to ask questions of my neighbors. I lived there for three weeks, photographing day and night; whenever someone would let me into their room, and by extension, into their life, I was ready. I made photographs, asked questions and simply watched with my finger pushing the button as people found their expression in front of my camera. I soon knew enough to know that I could not judge. I could only report back what I saw.

I learned in Hollywood, in this Hollywood Hotel located on the wrong end of the strip, that success is a state of mind. At different times, all of us are climbing or falling, exalted or despairing, content or not satisfied. These changes in circumstance are no reflection on character, intelligence or ability.

Here I was, a stranger surrounded by strangers of different ethnicities, gender-identities, races, livelihoods, pasts and futures. As people we do the best we can do. These people helped me, they got behind this project; they wanted me to be safe and to succeed. My photographs and words of them are now memories that have become friends and inspiration from a most beautiful encounter with humanity.

The 34 11×14 silver-gelatin prints, enlarger printed with my brief thoughts below the photographs could not have been created without my abandonment of pre-conceived notions.

The work and people of Guest Register gave me the confidence that I could see; that I could photograph and write and do something with my life as I approached adulthood. Now, as I look back upon a long and wondrous career in photography, with a shorter time ahead, I still long to know more about the small and large voices residing in the people that I meet. I am not done.
Room by room; dream by dream.