National Geographic photographer Lynn Johnson describes blast force as “the signature injury of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.” The veterans who endured it, she says, usually describe it differently: “I got blown up.” Images from Johnson’s series on survivors who participated in an unusual therapeutic art program to treat their trauma, first published in the February 2015 issue of National Geographic, are now on view as part of The Fence, the juried outdoor exhibition organized by United Photo Industries (and supported by PDN). “Blast Force Survivors” is also one of the winners of this year’s Grand-Prize Jury Award.
Blast force, Johnson notes, causes physical as well as psychological injuries, including traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Johnson photographed several soldiers and Marines who were treated for blast force at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, a Department of Defense institute. Johnson writes, “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.”
All the images displayed on The Fence have been chosen by a jury of editors, art directors, gallery owners and industry leaders. This is the first year that there was a tie for the Grand-Prize Jury Award; Johnson’s series shares the award with Edoardo Delille & Gabriele Galimberti and their project “En Plein Air.”