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Conversations with Photographer Tom Kiefer

Saturday, 06 November, 2021

This event will be held in person with a simultaneous online livestream.
The event is open to the general public and will be held in the Anheuser-Busch Auditorium in Cook Hall, located at 3684 Lindell Blvd. on the Saint Louis University campus. Free parking is available in the Canisius parking lot at Lindell Blvd. and Spring Ave. Campus navigation resources can be found at
Masks will be required of all attendees.
To join the online webinar, please register here:
Photographer Tom Kiefer will be in conversation with Dr. Daisy Vargas (University of Arizona), Dr. Elizabeth Eikmann (Washington University in St. Louis), and Dr. Petruta Lipan (Saint Louis University) about his exhibitions currently on display at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art.
Tom Kiefer worked part-time as a janitor at a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facility near Ajo, Arizona, from 2003 to 2014. In mid-2007, he was given permission to collect food confiscated from migrants and asylum seekers and donate it to a local food pantry. He was deeply moved at finding personal belongings in the trash bins along with the food and began to quietly rescue what items he could.
Touched by the objects he salvaged and the stories they told, Kiefer set himself to record them through photographs that became a testament of dispossession and loss of humanity. The resulting project, "El Sueño Americano / The American Dream" includes photographs of wallets, letters, coins, cellphones, food, water bottles, medications, toothbrushes, soap, blankets, perfumes, toys, and much more.
"El Sueño Americano /The American Dream" was organized by the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where it debuted on October 17, 2019. The exhibition includes photographs and video interviews with the artist, as well as with individuals who have crossed the southern border as migrants. The exhibition is on display at SLUMA until December 31, 2021. Learn more at
"Pertenencias / Belongings" places Kiefer’s photographs within a broader consideration of the human need to migrate, driven by the need not only to survive, but to flourish in body, mind and spirit. This human drive often draws on the power of hope and faith, which are reflected and manifested in many of the objects Kiefer documents. The exhibition is on display at MOCRA through December 19, 2021. Learn more.
This event is sponsored by Lived Religion in the Digital Age, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Department of Theological Studies.