Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Jacob Holdt "United States 1970-1975"

I found out about Jacob Holdt when I was browsing the second floor of the Strand bookstore looking for some economically priced photo books. I had never heard of Holdt before
and after flipping through a few pages I was blown away his pictures. It's like I had discovered some kind secret art nugget.

"In the early 1970s, when Jacob Holdt first arrived in the US with 40 dollars in his pocket, he planned to travel quickly across the country to South America. But, totally shocked and fascinated by what he discovered, he ended up staying five years. His family could scarcely believe the letters he sent them detailing the poverty he saw, so his father sent him a cheap amateur camera in order that Holdt could send home proof of his claims. Living as a vagabond, selling his blood twice a week, hitch-hiking over 100,000 miles, he depicted an incredible and unique portrait of America and its underclass."

But the story gets better...

After Holdt had completed the body of work and he showed it around Europe the Soviet government was interested publishing a book. Holdt agreed as he thought the book would raise awareness of impoverished people everywhere but then found out the KGB intended to use his work as anti American propaganda and had a lawyer successfully stop the Soviet distribution of the book. He has since worked for CARE as well as documenting white supremacist groups.

The thing about this book that is so great is it really shows how a well put together photo book can make a body of work. If you check out Holdt's website the images are still amazing but the book sequencing and selection of the photos in the book make the work so much more impressive. Make sure to check out the Steidl website as it has spreads from the book.

United States 1970-1975 by Jacob Holdt (published by Steidl)


No comments: