Wheeler was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1961, and grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. An adventurer, she left home at seventeen and moved to Hollywood, where she was an early devotee of punk rock music and culture. She graduated with a B.A. from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA and worked as a photojournalist for many publications including Newsweek, Time, Life, Rolling Stone, Spin, and No Depression, and was recognized by the Society for Professional Journalists in 1999, taking first place in the photo essay category of the Western Washington Excellence in Journalism Competition.
Wheeler’s photographs have been featured on record covers including Nirvana’s single “Love Buzz,” and L7’s “Shove;” in documentaries including “Kurt and Courtney,” by Nick Broomfield, and “I Am Secretly an Important Man,” by Pete Sillen; and in numerous books, including Taking Aim: Unforgettable Rock ‘n’ Roll Photographs Selected by Graham Nash (Chronicle Books, 2009), Mark Yarm’s Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge (Three Rivers Press, 2012), Heavier Than Heaven (Hyperion, 2001) and Cobain Unseen (Little, Brown 2008) by Charles Cross.
Her photographs have been exhibited at EMP Museum, The Seattle Art Museum, and The Henry Art Gallery, among others; she is included in the collections of these institutions as well as The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and many private collections. She is represented by Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle, where she has had four solo shows.