Telling Real Stories with Jon Lowenstein

Headshot of Jon Lowenstein (PLNU Guest Speaker)

Award-winning photographer and filmmaker Jon Lowenstein will visit PLNU as a guest speaker and as part of the PLNU Student Short Film Festival, the opening event to the 29th Annual Writer's Symposium by the Sea on February 19, 2024. 

Jon Lowenstein is best known for his work documenting the migrant trail from Central America and México to the United States. His photographic monograph Shadow Lives portrays the real stories of the men and women who make up the largest transnational migration in world history. This project, unique in its breadth and intimate scope, forces the viewer to engage with the impact of America’s punitive immigration and economic policies on some of the United States’ most vulnerable populations. His TED talk on the subject has more than 2 million views, and the work has been featured in National Geographic Magazine as well as many other outlets.

He has spent the better part of the past two decades engaging his adopted community on Chicago’s South Side where he taught photography in the Chicago Public Schools, ran a community newspaper, and is currently finishing South Side, a photographic monograph exploring his adopted community. This extensive and powerful body of work challenges accepted notions about community, poverty, segregation, and ultimately, what is the real space between hope and power. Told by the community with fewer filters, and still with an aesthetic that’s a unique personal collaboration between himself and his community, South Side is a true integrative expression of a uniquely American time and place. This participatory media project seeks to open new dialogic and physical spaces in which to engage both the immediate community and the global community at large. 

Lowenstein has been recognized widely for his work exploring migration, wealth inequality and community resilience including being named a Guggenheim Fellow, National Geographic Explorer, a TED Senior Fellow and a Guggenheim Fellow in Photography. He won the Dorothea Lange/Paul Taylor Prize. He is a Nikon European Ambassador, and he is the founding member of the NOOR DOCUMENTARY FOUNDATION and owner of NOOR Images cooperative based in Amsterdam. 

Dr. Scott Bennett, a photographer and professor of Spanish at PLNU, expresses his thoughts on Lowenstein and his upcoming visit: 

Jon Lowenstein is a consummate storyteller. His dedication to long-term projects through photography, short films, and personal connections is a testament to his deep desire to shed light on the human condition. It is a privilege to have him present his work, collaborate with students at PLNU, and connect with the greater San Diego community! Scott Bennett, Photographer & PLNU Professor of Spanish 

During his visit on February 19, Lowenstein will give an afternoon talk related to his photographic monographs: Family, Dreams and the Legacy of Diaspora and Reframing Our View of Migration. The presentation will be held from 3-4:30pm in Crill Performance Hall and is open to the public. 

Later that evening, Lowenstein will be the guest filmmaker at the PLNU Student Short Film Festival, providing feedback on the winning films and sharing about his experiences as a filmmaker. The free event will be held at 7-8:30pm in Crill Performance Hall. Click here to learn more about Jon Lowenstein.

For more information about the 29th Annual Writer's Symposium by the Sea, visit

Special thanks to our PLNU event partners:

College of Arts & Humanities

Department of Communication Studies

Department of Literature, Journalism, Writing, & Languages

Driftwood Creative Arts Journal

Foundational Explorations Program

Writer's Symposium by the Sea