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'Exit Wounds'

Life after Iraq and Afghanistan

A small section of the many photo montages in the exhibition “Exit Wounds”. Photo courtesy The Evergreen State College

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Thanks to crime shows on television, we know that exit wounds are where bullets leave the body, but to Portland-based photographer Jim Lommasson, the term also refers to the wounds soldiers bring with them when they come home from war.

Lommasson's series "Exit Wounds: Soldiers' Stories - Life after Iraq and Afghanistan" is showing at The Evergreen State College's Galerie Fotoland.

The exhibit combines portraits of soldiers taken while on deployment as well as back home with their families. The collected images and accompanying narrative writing explores the "homecoming" and the process of re-integration into society faced by American veterans who have recently returned from military service.

Lommasson writes: "As a society, we need to understand that a consequence of sending soldiers to war is that the war comes home with every veteran. In addition to their own experiences, they bring home first-hand knowledge of the impact of war on the civilians caught in the crossfire. The soldiers need to tell their stories, and we need to hear them. We must know the true consequences of their - of our - actions. We must take responsibility for the aftermath of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as at home."

Excerpts from oral history interviews serve to add context to Lommasson's complex environmental portraits, giving audiences a sense of each subject's experiences both during war and upon returning home. "Exit Wounds" asks its audience to take its time to get to know each person's story and to contemplate their own place in the American military's involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lommasson's work asks us to appreciate the experiences of veterans, and acknowledge that the wars they fight return home with them.

Mounted on the wall are warning signs: "The content of this exhibition might be disturbing to some viewers."

Among the written text that "might be disturbing" is a note from a driver who hit a child. "She crossed in front of me, and just, Humvees can't stop very fast."

There is also a long letter called "an open letter to three Iraqi women" from the mother of a United States marine. In the letter she tells how her son saw a friend kill Iraqis and saw the victim's family members rush to his side, and she writes about her son's involvement. She writes, "My son killed your father." The letter is signed "Mary Geddy, a marine's mom."

Lommasson is a freelance photographer and author living in Portland. He received the Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize from The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University for his first book, Shadow Boxers: Sweat, Sacrifice and The Will To Survive In American Boxing Gyms.

The photos and writing in this show are from his new book, Exit Wounds: Soldiers' Stories - Life After Iraq and Afghanistan.

The book includes his photographs and interviews plus photos by the participants.

The Evergreen State College Galerie Fotoland, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon., Tue.,Thurs., Fri., closed Wed., through May 11, 2700 Evergreen Parkway NW, Library 1st floor, Olympia

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