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gloria cassens Collection

Identifier: spe-n00047

Scope and Contents

This collection contains 908 prints, mostly 4” x 6” and 3½” x 5,” taken by gloria cassens, between the years 2012 and 2015. Most photographs are color, but there are a few black and white prints. The photographs were taken by cameras on several mobile telephones and with a point-and-shoot Canon digital camera.

Most of these photographs were taken in Chicago’s Loop or Near North Side and feature many of the same people over time. They graphically depict the difficulties that some people, young and old, men and women, experience. Many of these photographs starkly juxtapose struggling people with hopeful, sometimes ironic backgrounds. While gloria cassens’ primary motivation for taking these photographs is the creation of photographic beauty, she has a high regard for her subjects and is respectful of their circumstances.

The collection also contains several artists’ statements created by gloria cassens which accompanied her photo exhibits and some promotional pieces for the same.


  • circa 2012-2016


Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Research copies may be made. For any other reproductions, permission must be obtained from the Photographer.

Biographical / Historical

gloria cassens is a photographer and writer who began taking photographs around 2010 with a mobile phone she found on a train. She takes pictures of whatever captures her interest while walking around the streets of Chicago. While her work covers several genres, including architectural photographs and shots of nature, her main focus depicts human conditions, individuals she encounters in her daily wandering. All other photographs she takes are secondary.

Two women have played important roles in gloria cassens’ life – Nancy Vincent and Nancy Stone. Nancy Vincent from the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago took an interest in gloria cassens’ work and originally contacted Special Collections about the collection on her behalf. As gloria cassens says, “I owe Nancy Vincent an unfaltering debt of gratitude for her friendship, kindness and appreciation for me and my photographs.” In 2013, gloria cassens met Chicago Tribune photographer Nancy Stone. A friendship grew and Stone produced a short film, gloria cassens: Street photographer, available on You Tube. In 2015 gloria cassens published another film on You Tube, gloria cassens: Bits and Pieces, where she gave the following artist’s statement about her work:

The streets of Chicago are unforgiving. The majestic buildings that dot Chicago’s shore and grace its city, unforgettable. The weary worn and wary individuals that line, litter and lace Chicago’s streets are my interest. Not with compassion at the forefront but for their photographic beauty, their resolve, resilience and tenacity. Along with the knowing that it takes a lot to hold onto nothing and not everyone has someone they can cry to. I have been snapping photos for the past five years. Monday through Friday I am a supper guest at Catholic Charities where I receive top of the line meals, served by very extraordinary, gracious and caring volunteers. One of these volunteers is the founder of Chicago Help Initiative, Jacqueline Hayes. She does so much more than providing meals. She makes sure each and every supper guest know they matter. I am grateful for all that has been contributed to the easing of bits and pieces of my life’s journey. Snapping photos has been my saving grace. My name is gloria cassens.

gloria cassens’ work has been exhibited at the Catholic Charities’ After Supper Visions and is in several private collections.


.5 Linear Feet (in 3 boxes, includes 908 photographs)

Language of Materials



gloria cassens is a writer and a photographer. While her work covers several genres, including architectural photographs and shots of nature, but her main focus, and the content of this collection, is on individuals she encounters in her daily wandering in Chicago’s Loop and Near North Side. Her photographs graphically depict the human conditions that some people, young and old, men and women, experience.


The collection is arranged sequentially by albums that were composed and donated by gloria cassens. The photographs have been removed from the albums but their order has been maintained. The prefix denotes in which album the photograph originally appeared. For example, photographs with the number 1.1 or 1.2 came from the first album and photographs numbered 2.1 and 2.2 are from the second. An “a” or “b” following the number indicates that it was tucked into the same display pocket in the album. For example, photographs 1.5a, 1.5b, 1.5c, 1.5d and 1.5e were all inside the same display pocket with 1.5a showing on top, and the others concealed behind. The photographer purposely arranged these albums creating a narrative of sorts. This original order has been preserved by the archivist. Some photographs appear in several places depending on the photographer’s arrangement.

• Album # 1, 195 photographs

• Album # 2, 228 photographs

• Album # 3, 245 photographs

• Album # 4, 185 photographs

• Album # 5, 55 photographs

An index has been created for photographs where location or specific subject matter is indicated or obvious, but not all photographs are not included in these categories.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by gloria cassens in 2015

Related Materials

David Gremp Photographs

Mike Pocius Photographs

Akito Tsuda Photographs



Guide to the gloria cassens Collection
Morag Walsh, 2016. Updated and ingested into ArchivesSpace by Michelle McCoy, 2023.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Unit at Harold Washington Library Center Repository

Harold Washington Library Center, 9th Floor
Chicago Public Library
400 S. State Street
Chicago IL 60605 United States
(312) 747-4875