Photo exhibit explores life in Amazonian region

Jim Penn photographed Don Jorge Soplin Zuta cultivating plants in his agroforestry system containing 58 species of crops.
Jim Penn photographed Don Jorge Soplin Zuta cultivating plants in his agroforestry system containing 58 species of crops.
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During the past 30 years, Jim Penn, associate professor of geography and planning, has traveled on numerous occasions to the Loreto Region of Peru, South America. There, he has participated in programs ranging from wildlife research and natural resource management, to community development, health care and human rights initiatives.

Through December 18 on the Red Wall Gallery located in Lake Ontario Hall, Penn's experiences will be showcased through the photographic exhibition "Different Waters: Thirty Years in the Western Amazon."

A special exhibition reception will be held Tuesday, December 1, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. in Lake Ontario Hall room 167. The event will be free and open to Grand Valley faculty, students, staff, and the general public. Light refreshments and food will be served.

Penn said he was first invited to travel to the Loreto Region to work as a wildlife research assistant after graduating from college. His collection of photographs document how people adapt to the many dynamic and changing environments of Amazonia.

"There are many themes present throughout my exhibit, ranging from the challenges of living in isolated rainforest villages to the struggles of living in the 'concrete jungles' of urban Amazonia," Penn said. "I hope that viewers will learn that Amazonia is much more varied and complex than the lush green and peaceful forest that comes to mind when we think of this region."

David Newell, Galleries and Collections curator of exhibitions, said more than 400 of Penn's photographs were narrowed down to 75, making "Different Waters" the largest photographic exhibit ever included in an Art Gallery installation on the Red Wall Gallery.

Newell added that this exhibition provides a very personal insight into a world not normally seen.

"Exhibits like this are important in that they take us out of our comfort zones and complacency and make us confront cultures and situations that are present in the world," Newell said. "Jim has seen death and disease intimately on the frontline of an ongoing cholera epidemic; he has witnessed environmental changes and the onslaught of pollution dramatically changing the region; and, he has seen the adaptability of the human race in the face of corruption and adversity."

For more information about this exhibition, contact Grand Valley's Art Gallery at (616) 331-2563 or