“Through the Lens” Exhibit Takes Audiences on a Gripping Social-Justice Journey

Sep 16, 2014

Photojournalist Linda Panetta wants to open your eyes, shatter your illusions and disturb your sleep. So reads, in part, her artist’s mission statement.

University of Scranton continuing-education student and employee Karl Kretsch is one of her collaborators , having designed a trio of University events meant to highlight issues of environmental, economic and social justice in Latin America and the Middle East.

“I went to El Salvador two years ago and had a transformative experience,” Kretsch, 47, said, describing a mission trip sponsored by the University that led him to spend seven days in El Salvador, including three days in a “tiny little village living with a family to whom I am still connected.”

Since he returned with what he calls an “ignited passion,” he set out to bring “a major speaker” to campus not only to fulfill requirements for a Working for Justice class for the Latin American Studies program, but to expand upon the lessons he learned “about my country’s responsibilities for what has happened to those people in the past 40 years.”

Enter Panetta, whose work Kretsch became familiar with while doing advocacy work in Washington, D.C.

From Oct. 3 through Nov. 26, The Heritage Room of the University’s Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Memorial Library will house a traveling exhibit showcasing Panetta’s social-justice imagery. Panetta will display a different set of photographs on the first floor of Scranton’s Connell Lofts Building, 129 North Washington Ave., from 6-9 p.m. on Oct. 3 as part of the city’s First Friday Art Walk. In addition, she will offer a free, public presentation titled “Latin America Through the Lens: A Compassionate Look Back, at Our Future” from 6:30-7:30 p.m. on Oct. 6 in the PNC Auditorium of the Loyola Science Center.

The three events fall in the middle of National Hispanic Heritage Month, observed from Sept. 15-Oct. 15, and Kretsch said they are meant to engage the area’s Latino population. As part of that effort, Spanish-language posters have been printed and distributed.

The Oct. 6 lecture is “about Latin America and will be a multimedia lecture,” Kretsch said, noting Panetta “is very good about incorporating her personal stories and pictures into her presentation.”

As founder of Optical Realities Photography, the Mariposa Outreach Project, the Jean Donovan Community Peace Center and the grass-roots human-rights organization SOA Watch/NE, whose mission is to close the U.S. Army School of the Americas due to human-rights atrocities, Panetta attempts to challenge audiences’ worldviews through artistic expression.

Panetta, a 1988 graduate of Cabrini College in Radnor, has spent the past 25 years traveling throughout Latin America and the Middle East. She currently teaches photojournalism at Cabrini College as well as courses that allow the homeless to become active participants in discussing and addressing socio-economic issues. Using her experiences in impoverished, war-torn areas, she has advocated for justice in Guatemala, Colombia, Nicaragua, Chiapas and Oaxaca in Mexico, El Salvador, Haiti, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Uruguay, Ecuador, Panama, Venezuela, Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel and the Palestinian region.

“When looking through the lens of a camera, you're ever so present to the details of one's face: the smirks, smiles and frowns, the wisdom and age that accompany the sun-baked wrinkles, and the depth of sorrow, joy, uncertainty, curiosity and oneness in the eyes,” Panetta wrote on her website, www.opticalrealities.org.

The exhibits and lecture are made possible by a grant from The University of Scranton Office of Equity and Diversity’s Diversity Initiatives Fund and the support of the Department of Latin American Studies and Women’s Studies, the Weinberg Memorial Library, University Ministries, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Office of Community Relations.

Contact Michael Knies at 570-941-6341 or Michael.Knies@Scranton.edu for more information on the exhibit. Contact event organizer Kretsch at 570- 941-4729 or Karl.Kretsch@scranton.edu for more information on the lecture and First Friday event.


What: Traveling photography exhibit: “Finding Hope in the Shadows of War”

Who: Photojournalist and human rights activist Linda Panetta

When: Oct. 3-Nov. 26

Where: Heritage Room, Fifth Floor, Weinberg Memorial Library at The University of Scranton

Cost: Free during library hours: 8 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays; 12-8 p.m. Saturdays; 12-11:30 p.m. Sundays.

More info: 570-941-6341


What: First Friday Scranton Art Walk / Photo exhibit and slide show: “Finding Hope in the Shadows of War”

Who: Photojournalist and human rights activist Linda Panetta

When: 6-9 p.m. Oct. 3

Where: First floor of the Connell Lofts Building, 129 North Washington Ave., Scranton

Cost: Free

More info: 570-941-4729


What:  “Latin America Through the Lens: A Compassionate Look Back, at Our Future,” a public presentation

Who: Photojournalist and human rights activist Linda Panetta

When: 7 p.m. Oct. 6

Where: PNC Auditorium, Loyola Science Center at The University of Scranton

Cost: Free

More info: 570-941-4729



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