Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Richard Younker  

Pen Name: Richard M. Younker

Genre: Non-Fiction

Audience: Adult;

Born: 1945 in Chicago

-- Website --
-- Richard Younker on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

* Lives in and writes about Chicago, Illinois

Biographical and Professional Information

Younker completed a BA in psychology at the University of Chicago. He has been employed as a mailman, sixth-grade teacher, encyclopedia salesman, shipping clerk, actor, and singer. A self-taught photographer, he began working as a freelance photojournalist in 1974. Over the years, he has contributed forty photo essays to the ''Chicago Tribune'' and ''Chicago Sun Times Sunday'' magazines, ''Chicago Magazine'', and the ''Chicago Reader''. He has published photo documentary book projects about commercial fishermen on the Mississippi River and the working-class residents of Chicago. His photography was also showcased in the book, ''Street Signs Chicago'' published by Chicago Review Press.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

On Site, the Construction of a High-Rise
ISBN: 0690040032

Ty Crowell Co. 1980

This photographic essay spotlights the stages involved in the construction of a modern concrete high-rise building

Street Signs Chicago: Neighborhood and Other Illusions of Big-City Life
ISBN: 0914091069

Chicago Review Press. 1982

Book good condition

Our Chicago: Faces and Voices of the City
ISBN: 1556520220

Chicago Review Pr. 1987

Lots of great pictures of the every day people that make up this great American city.

Yankin' and Liftin' Their Whole Lives: A Mississippi River Commercial Fisherman (Shawnee Books)
ISBN: 0809323389

Southern Illinois University Press. 2000

Using narrative, monologues, and seventy black-and-white photographs, photojournalist Richard Younker examines the life and culture of what is perhaps the last generation of people to make their living as commercial fishermen on the Mississippi River, Junnie Putman and his family and friends.

Younker delves into and illustrates every aspect of Putman's life: how he works, what he does to relax, how he interacts with family and friends. He shows how Putman fished, divulging some of the secrets of the professional fisherman. Examining this fisherman's life—as well as the lives of his relatives and friends—Younker demonstrates Putman's skill as colorful storyteller with a rich vocabulary. Putman proved forthright when expressing his views about life, river lore, and the changing ecology.

These fishermen (who supplement their incomes by hunting and trapping) have various and vigorous encounters with the law, some confrontational, some clever. They also live dangerous lives, working hard, playing hard. And they are quick to fight. Younker photographs and writes about this side of their lives, too.

In each chapter, Younker narrates an aspect of the life and work of Junnie Putman and his family and friends followed byYounker's own black-and-white photographs that help tell the story. Introducing each photograph is a monologue in which Putman or one of his relatives either recounts the history of the family that settled in Bellevue, Iowa, in 1862 or explains the methods and dangers of a specific job.

Although he spent parts of nine years documenting Junnie Putman and his family, Younker condenses his observations into a single year. He shows, for example, how fishing techniques change with the seasons. Putman uses hoop nets in the spring, trotlines in the summer, trammel nets in the fall, seines in the open water in late fall, and seines under the water in winter.

In Yankin' and Liftin' Their Whole Lives, Younker presents the richness of a vanishing way of life and the intricacies of its labors. He gives Junnie Putman and his friends the opportunity to speak for themselves. And he shows a culture in decline, demonstrating that descent through Putman's failing health, his death, and the townspeople's reminiscences of his life following the funeral.

Chicago People
ISBN: 0252026799

University of Illinois Press. 2001

Here is the heart of Chicago. Not in the commercial dazzle of Michigan Avenue or the plush offices of Wacker Drive, but on the streets, at scrapyards and construction sites, in the shadow of boarded-up apartment buildings, and inside the churches and parks of ethnic neighborhoods where English is rarely spoken.
In this photodocumentary, Richard Younker reveals the "second city" - the shadowy sister of the glittering, guidebook Chicago - through the stories and black-and-white images of its inhabitants. Many of the men and women depicted on these pages live on the edge, or close to it. Some survive by wit and cunning, some by violence, some by grinding, backbreaking work. But they are all survivors, and their stories, gritty and luminous, pulsate with the energy of that survival.

Skinfolk: Gamblers on the Green
ISBN: 1629010316

Inkwater Pr. 2014

There's a group that comes out here Fridays, said my golfing partner, that you want to avoid, he said, his tone insinuating that one of them might drop a sixty-five-foot putt that would empty your wallet.

One day, undaunted, I anteed up twenty dollars and joined them. Walking off the sixth green, after three putts, I said, I've had five books published and can't even read a doggone green.

Why don't you do a book about our group? one of them said. You'd hear some unbelievable stories, see some unforgettable things, things that no one would imagine. The characters!

I liked their independent manner, their swagger, their dark humor, and their good fellowship. A number of them grew up around or worked for the mafia some work in landscaping or repair golf clubs. Those in their sixties and seventies have competed for up to forty years, creating an anthology of old stories, with new ones unfolding day to day. Kidding, sharp-edged and dull, cuts between the Romanians and Italians, Puerto Ricans and Romanians, older Anglos and Mexicans, bombs landing on political correctness wrong side. And, yet, common interest in golf and gambling (on anything) keeps competition amicable.


  • Award-winning freelance photojournalist for twenty-six years

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