"As an heir to Riis, Verene delivers messages from across a social barrier, images that only a photographer with special access and with special effort could make. In his case, it’s derived from the privilege of his membership in a particular family. Following Riis’ example, the pictures do not just inform us but address us. They seem almost to speak what they show, expecting us to understand, or at least not to deny that we share a language — a social world — in common with his subjects. In Verene’s case, his own voice hovers around the pictures through plainspoken, handwritten captions — one of the work’s most distinctive features. Also in the spirit of Riis (not to mention Galesburg’s most famous native son, Carl Sandburg), Verene’s images play on a theme of civilizational struggle, in which everyday life is situated in the foil of an American dream—not of consumerist transcendence, but of an unafflicted dignity to accompany pain when it comes, or at least a right to one’s own grief. All of these structuring elements lend Verene’s work the aura of classicism, and quietly endow him with a measure of heroism."