UWEC alumnus releases new book

John Noltner has recently published his book “Portraits of Peace” now available for purchase

More stories from Lisa Snyder

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John Noltner’s “Portraits of Peace” focuses on searching for hope in a divided America.

Hoping to find a common humanity amongst divided citizens, John Noltner recently wrote a book on finding peace in our society. 

After graduating in 1999 with a degree in journalism, Noltner decided to pursue his dreams through commercial and freelance work. After numerous internships, he went to work as a photographer for various magazines and Fortune 500 companies

He grew concerned about the quality of our national dialogue and the things that could divide citizens. Noltner wondered if there was a way he could use his photography and storytelling skills to find out what connects us as humans. 

He started off on a 40,000 mile road trip across the United States, and asked people “What does peace mean to you?” 

After he collected interviews and photos from people of all different backgrounds, he built a body of work that he shared online, in books and through travelling exhibits. 

Once he shared other’s stories, Noltner decided he had a lot to say for himself about encountering differences, healing and deep listening. 

“If we spend our time looking for division, we will certainly find it, “ Noltner said. “But if we spend our time looking for connections, the truth is, we can find that as well, no matter where we are.” 

This ultimately became the focus of Noltner’s new book “Portraits of Peace.”  He described the book as an outlet for searching for the common humanity that connects us all in an increasingly divided world. 

“Everyone has a different experience, but there are some common human experiences,” Noltner said. “The need to be seen, valued and heard is a universal experience and, one way or another, all the stories boil down to talking about that.” 

Noltner said the main message in his book is to listen deeply, carefully and thoughtfully, as well as being willing to challenge your expectations and see the world in new ways. 

“Be willing to show up at the table again and again,” Noltner said. “Most of these challenges are complex, long term issues and we are not going to solve them in one sit-down conversation. It requires us to be intentional, sit at the table and craft solutions to these complex problems.” 

Noltner said “Portraits of Peace” uses his photography and storytelling to examine these social issues and capture who we are as a nation. 

Lisa Kloskin, Acquisitions Editor at Broadleaf Books, describes Noltner’s book as one that is filled with empathy and urgency. She said she is enthralled with his passion and storytelling abilities. 

“His book weaves together so many important threads of national conversation,” Kloskin said. “Because John’s photography work is already so beloved around the country, I am excited to see how readers respond to this behind-the-scenes narrative.” 

While his book is now published, Noltner’s work does not end there. He and his wife, Karen, are currently travelling the country full time to continue the project.  

He said he wants to continue to hear the stories of people who find solutions to some of the nation’s most complex challenges so he can amplify those examples and find a way to live better together.

Noltner’s book can be purchased through any book distributor. More information about his project can be found here

Snyder can be reached at [email protected]