Artist gives Loras a ‘peace’ of his mind

Sept. 17-23 was Peace and Justice Week. Award-winning photographer John Noltner was invited to campus to share his experience and “Peace of My Mind” multi-media project.

Noltner travels the country to interview people from all subcultures of the American melting pot, taking pictures of his subjects to document his experiences. These pictures are used as the background for inspirational quotes from the interviewees and are published in his book.

His first book, “A Peace of My Mind,” was published in 2011. Currently he is working on his third book, which may include images of people he met in Dubuque and their perspectives on how to facilitate peacemaking at all levels of society. His goal is to make peace, not only for the individual, but also for the country and the rest of the world.

On Tuesday, Sept. 19, Noltner set up his project on the Alumni Campus Center concourse. Between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Noltner invited students, faculty and staff to come have their picture taken and share a time when they saw peace in their lives. Participants filled out a form answering the question in 25 words or less. Throughout the day, 77 people stopped by to share their stories.

Students, faculty and staff share their experiences of peace at the “Peace of My Mind” exhibit.

“‘Peace of My Mind’ was such an inspiring program to have on campus because it allowed people to recognize that God grants everyone peace throughout all aspects of life,” said sophomore Erica Timmerman.

The next day, Wednesday, Sept. 20, Noltner spoke about his experiences that led him to his project.

Noltner held an interest in photography far before it became his profession. When he was nine years old he would play with his parent’s camera, taking pictures of what he considered to be beautiful. This helped him develop an eye for the right scenery needed for a great shot at a young age. In college, he became interested in storytelling through film, photo and text. He majored in journalism at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire and eventually got a job at a daily newspaper after graduating. He worked for that newspaper for two years, then moved on to photography in studios of Fortune 500 companies and other publications before starting his “Peace of My Mind” project in 2009.

One of Noltner’s biggest influences, in terms of his profession of photography, was Studs Terkel, a radio personality airing from 1952 to 1997. Even though Studs wasn’t a photographer, Noltner was interested in how Studs used his media and radio broadcast to tell a story. When Studs wrote a book on the Great Depression, he didn’t focus on the statistics like income, debt, and so on. He interviewed people in his community and abroad to collect candid interpretations of the Great Depression and how the interviewees were affected.

Noltner mentioned during his presentation that any medium can be used to tell a story. That is exactly what he has done through his “Peace of My Mind” Project. The quotes, pictures, and videos catch one’s attention and portray people of all walks of life to paint a more diverse picture of the American people.

When asked about what he believes millennial in particular should do to create peace, he had a few ideas.

“You have already taken on the idea that peace comes from taking personal responsibilities for the worlds around us, but we need to take it further,” Noltner said.

According to Noltner, one key to doing that is eliminating bias. He claims everyone has biases. To get past them is to embrace everyone whether they are gay, straight, in the military, black, white, Asian, bisexual, or of any other subculture. And that has to be done beyond the worlds of Twitter and Facebook. It has to be done in the real world, listening and sharing stories so that fairness and equality prevail instead of ignorance and bias, in the U.S. and beyond.

For more information visit his website, which can be found here.

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Troy is a staff writer for The Lorian.

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