Medina, Luis

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Medina, Luis

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Luis Medina was born on June 18, 1942, in Havana, Cuba. During his childhood, he attended a private military school until he left Cuba for Spain at the age of sixteen in 1958. There, he was introduced to the arts, such as painting and literature, by Cuban poet Gastón Baquero. Medina traveled and worked throughout Europe, visiting Germany and Italy. He migrated to Miami, Florida, in 1961, and was reunited with his mother and stepfather, who had fled Cuba after Fidel Castro’s government came to power. He attended Miami Dade Junior College and took courses in history, philosophy, and sociology. Upon graduating with honors in 1967, Medina enrolled in The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) with dreams of becoming a sculptor. He was accompanied at SAIC by his childhood friend José López, and the two were quickly taken in by American mentors Harold Allen and Hugh Edwards.

Medina soon turned his artistic interests to the medium of photography, which he practiced alongside López until his friend’s departure to Miami in 1976. The two taught photography together in the early 1970s at Columbia College - Chicago and other local universities. Medina remained in Chicago, where he developed a growing body of photographic work that focused on architectural photography and documenting marginalized groups, such as the Latinx and gay communities in the Chicago area. In one acclaimed series, Medina captured the inner workings of the gang population, photographing their graffiti while simultaneously earning their respect. In 1980, this work was exhibited in a solo show at the Art Institute.

After a period of illness, he died at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami at the age of forty-three in 1985.


Cuba; Spain; Germany; Italy; Miami; Chicago.

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United States

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March 13, 2020. Biographical note by Allegra G. Garcia, April 2020. Updated by Juan A. Villanueva, April 2020, and Amanda Moreno, May 2020.


  • English



Facts and Fables by Luis Medina, Photographer.

"Luis Medina, 43; Photographed the Architecture of Chicago." Chicago Tribune. 1985 October 16.

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