Unmasked: Soldiers Heal from Blast Force Damage

Photographs by Lynn Johnson
Preus Library
November 12 – January 10, 2015

There will be a Gallery Reception on Thursday, November 12, 2015 from 5:00 - 7:15 pm in the Hovde Room of Preus Library.  The reception is in conjunction with Lynn Johnson's photography exhibit of wounded veterans, and all area veterans and their families are invited as special guests to the reception.  The reception precedes the Center Stage performance of "Letters Home" that evening in the CFL.  For more information about “Letters Home, please visit the Campus Programming website

Lynn Johnson

Lynn Johnson is a  freelance photojournalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania who has been documenting the global human condition for 35 years.  She is a regular contributor to numerous publications, including Sports Illustrated and National Geographic and is a frequent educator at National Geographic’s Photo Camp, where the next generation of photojournalists is trained in developing countries.  She has come to see her work as moving from that of an observer to an advocate promoting dialogue about issues such as intolerance and prejudice.  Johnson is a visiting professional in multimedia photography and design at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.  She has won several awards for her work, including the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for Coverage of the Disadvantages, and multiple World Press Awards. Her photographs have also appeared in a variety of books.

For additional information about Lynn Johnson and her work, please visit her personal website.

Artist’s Statement

“‘I got blown up.’ That’s what they say. ‘I was right there in the blast seat.’

“Blast force—the signature injury of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan—creates a pressure so powerful it can be seen before it is heard or felt. Soldiers remember confusion, deafness, slowdown, the feeling of being squashed. Positive and negative pressure waves roll through the body, shattering nerve pathways. And the soldier is never the same. They say they feel “crazy:” hyper-vigilant, sleepless, suicidal. They have language and hearing problems, memory loss and migraines. They anger easily. They abuse alcohol and drugs. Wives and lovers leave them, and their children fear them. Soldiers long for a missing arm, leg, eye—a visible wound that would command respect and understanding.

“The veterans in these photographs—Aaron, Bo, Chris, Perry, Tiffany, David and Maj. Jeff Hall—found help at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, a Department of Defense institute that serves some of the 360,000 men and women damaged by blast force injuries. In addition to receiving sophisticated imaging and care from physicians and therapists, soldiers make masks. Making art cracks open the trauma and then knits the brain. The masks, like MRIs of their psyches, make the scars of blast force visible, a first step to healing.”

-Lynn Johnson