Nebraska Mosaic partners with noted photographer Jim Lommasson

Nebraska Mosaic partners with noted photographer Jim Lommasson

Tuesday, March 21, 2017 - 1:15pm
Photographer Jim Lommasson discusses his storytelling projects with students in the Nebraska Mosaic class. (Photo by Abby Groth)
Jim Lommasson photographs a book that a Lincoln Yazidi family brought with them to the United States. As part of an ongoing project, Lommasson documents objects that Iraqi refugees brought to America.  (Photo by Abby Groth)
Jim Lommasson photographs a book that a Lincoln Yazidi family brought with them to the United States. As part of an ongoing project, Lommasson documents objects that Iraqi refugees brought to America. (Photo by Abby Groth)
Students in the Nebraska Mosaic class listen as Abby Groth, assistant curator of public programs, (far right) discusses the nuances of Jim Lommasson’s exhibit at the Sheldon Museum of Art. (Photo by Michelle Hassler)
Students in the Nebraska Mosaic class listen as Abby Groth, assistant curator of public programs, (far right) discusses the nuances of Jim Lommasson’s exhibit at the Sheldon Museum of Art. (Photo by Michelle Hassler)

The College of Journalism and Mass Communications and the Sheldon Museum of Art recently collaborated to provide students in a capstone journalism course the opportunity to learn valuable lessons in storytelling from a noted photographer, author and oral historian.

Jim Lommasson works with Iraqi and Syrian refugees in the U.S. on a collaborative photo-based project. Students in the Nebraska Mosaic class publish stories about the state’s refugees. The fact that Lommasson and the students share similar storytelling goals made for a “perfect” collaboration, said Michelle Carr Hassler, assistant professor of practice of journalism and instructor of the course.

“I knew right away when I heard about Jim’s work and his appearance in Lincoln that this would be a tremendous learning experience for the students,” she said. “And, thanks to Jim, it was. His passion for his project was inspirational, and the insight he shared was so beneficial.”

As part of his ongoing project – What We Carried: Fragments from the Cradle of Civilization – Lommasson invites Iraqi and Syrian refugees to share a personal item significant to their travels to America, such as a family snapshot, heirloom dish or childhood toy. He photographs each artifact and then returns a 13" x 19" archival print to the participants so they can write their thoughts about item on the print.

The exhibit has been shown at a variety of museums and cultural centers, including the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

In addition to hearing Lommasson speak at a March 7 public lecture at the Sheldon, Mosaic students were able to talk with him in more depth during his visit to the class on March 8.

Lommasson also visited the Lincoln homes of several Yazidi families to photograph the items they carried to the U.S. – and students were invited to tag along.

“That was really cool,” said graduate student Emily Case. “During his presentation I wanted to ask him about things, like what type of reflector he uses and his approach to shoots. So having the opportunity to watch him was invaluable.”

Earlier in the semester, Sheldon staff provided students with a guided tour of the  exhibition “Conflict and Consequence: Photographing War and Is Aftermath,” which features some of Lommasson’s pieces as well as the work of other noted photographers who have documented war and its aftermath in places such as Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Syria, Sierra Leone and Rwanda.

“The exhibit helped student see the effects of war in a larger context,” Hassler said. “I think they also realized that there are many ways to tell the stories of those affected by war, including refugees living in Lincoln.”

Since 2011, students have published on the Nebraska Mosaic website more than 400 stories for and about refugees and immigrants in Nebraska. Students also publish a periodic newsletter