Jason Wambsgans 

Discussion & Reflection


Questions -

How does your close connection to Trauma impact you personally?

How do your stories impact your subjects after they are published?

In your time with your subjects, what are some unique coping mechanisms you've seen?

Reflection -

Jason's presentation on his work in Chicago was moving and fascinating. He brought a candid, edgy voice to a topic that is often overlooked, feared and tiptoed around. While his presentation showcased heartbreaking work, the discussion that followed gave us a glimpse into the mind behind it. I appreciated his ability to express unwavering dedication to his unorthodox and dangerous work while maintaining the humanity of the victims he regularly encountered. Someone asked him about how he maintains his composure during a particularly violent event and he described a coping mechanism that our stand-in professor called "combat mentality". Essentially, he said that his body goes into a panic during the ride and as soon as he exits the van, a strange calm falls over him and he is ready to go. I thought about this for a while after class ended. It really struck me that a photojournalist documenting the lives of those living in the most violent neighborhoods in the country, would have the physical reaction of a solider going into war. I reflected a lot about the battlegrounds that exist across our country because of decades of institutionalized discrimination. Wambsgans shows that it takes a great level of bravery to confront the tragedies and injustices that impact those who live in Southside Chicago and similar neighborhoods around the nation. His work is critically important now, more than ever, because the national conversation is enthralled with a partisan divide that hasn't given these victims a voice but instead used them as pawns to prove their point. Either, their violence is enabled by soft-hearted liberals or exploited and abused by racist republicans. Wambsagas even said that there was enough money in Chicago to fix many of issues that impact his subjects but it wasn't considered a lucrative business model to solve poverty. 

The lifestyle he leads is far from what is considered healthy, but he proves that it takes an immense amount of physical grit, patience, compassion and dark sense of humor to produce pulitzer-winning photojournalism. I believe that the sun will never set on a profession that sheds a light on the human experience (especially the most trying and excruciating of those experiences) A photojournalist's job is much more trying than I thought, especially those who are producing the groundbreaking work like Wambsgans.