By Steven Krolak
Over the past 20 years, Louisville photographer Ross Gordon has visited and worked in over 50 countries, gathering images and understanding of peoples and cultures.
In that time, he has come to see photography as a powerful way to bring people together, to meet one another across ethnic, religious and social divides.
In his new exhibition, “Americans,” opening at the Swanson Contemporary Gallery in Louisville, Gordon explores Muslim culture in the United States, capturing a swath of diverse biographies in 20 large-format yet intimate portraits accompanied by personal profiles.
Among them is Dr. Sumreen Asim, assistant professor of elementary science and technology education at IU Southeast.
Asim implements inquiry-based instructional approaches for students of elementary and secondary education at IU Southeast. Her research interests include collaborative efforts for global sustainability, informal STEM education and educational technology. Modeling for photo shoots is not usually on her to-do list, but Gordon’s project sounded both interesting and important, so when he visited her mosque to explain his aims and invite worshippers to participate, she volunteered.
“I was quite honored to be selected for this opportunity,” Asim said. “Demystifying Islamic culture is of utmost importance, and the exhibit is a stepping stone to initiate dialogue between local community members living in the Kentuckiana area.”
Born and raised in New York, Asim has a keen interest in interfaith work. Besides presenting her academic research at national and international conferences, she has spoken on topics ranging from Islam and women’s issues to parenting.
With the U.S. Muslim population now numbering nearly 3.3 million, and growing, Asim sees the need, and the potential, for efforts to address stereotypes.
“Education is a potent tool in improving our culturally pluralistic society,” Asim said. “My hope is that the American community at large can engage in dialogue to develop awareness, knowledge and understanding of the beliefs and practices of people with different faiths.”
“Americans” opens Friday, April 7 at 7 p.m. at the Swanson Contemporary Gallery, 638 East Market Street in Louisville, Ky. The event is free and the public is welcome.