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A Peace of My Mind a place to hear voices for peace

By John Noltner

This exhibit is the result of almost two years of work, exploring the meaning of peace.

The seed for this project was planted as two events in my photographic journey coincided. The first was a sort of restlessness I had been feeling for some time that I was not doing exactly what I had been made to do. The second event was the economic downturn, which provided me with some much-needed time for reflection and evaluation.

I was born the son of a social worker and an educator, so I suppose there was always fertile soil for this sort of subject matter to thrive. I have always had an interest in social justice issues, serving on several boards for non-profits that did good work both here and abroad.

Yet I am not an expert on peace. I have no formal training in the subject, and I hold no related academic degree. You can ask my friends”¦ask my family”¦and they will tell you that I regularly miss the mark when it comes to living in harmony with others.

But being perfect is not the goal of this exhibit. This project is about moving forward”¦about finding ways that we can bridge some of our differences and about celebrating the common humanity that binds us all.

I believe in the power of stories. Through images and words I have spent my career telling stories and that is what I have set out to do with this series. Each of these subjects has a unique story to tell”¦a unique perspective on peace”¦and I am grateful they were willing to share it.

The premise is simple. I have asked each of these subjects what peace means to them. They have responded with various shades of spiritual peace, political peace, or inner peace. They have shared how they work toward that peace in their lives and what obstacles they have encountered along the way.

Our world has become polarized. We are happy to make quick assessments of others and place them in a category. We promptly dismiss another”'s viewpoint as soon as we hear the buzzwords that tell us they are from the other camp. Politically, ethnically, religiously”¦we expend an enormous amount of energy looking at the things that divide us. I believe we ought to spend time and energy looking for those things that unite us.

When we hear another”'s story, he or she becomes more human to us. It is the first step in building understanding and it begins with dialogue.

Not one of us has all of the answers. These subjects don”'t. I certainly don”'t. But collectively, these portraits and stories weave a rich human fabric and offer us a framework to explore some answers together.

I encourage you to view this exhibit as a first step. The quotes that accompany the portraits are a small portion of the subjects”' interviews. Take time to listen to their pod-casts online and understand the context in which they made their statements. Use the interviews as stepping-stones to your own conversations.

I don”'t doubt that we will continue to bump into each other as our human history moves forward. Conflicts will continue between nations, on our streets and in our homes. But there are steps we can all take in our lives to move in a different direction. Only by making peace a part of our regular dialogue can we hope to make progress.

There are enormous challenges ahead if we intend to create a more peaceful world. But the answers will be found in conversation, not in isolation.

For more information: www.apeaceofmymind.net a place to hear voices for peacejohn@apeaceofmymind.net, 612-865-9519.

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