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American Pictures: A Personal Journey Through the American Underclass Paperback – June 1, 1985

ISBN-13: 978-8798170204 ISBN-10: 8798170201 Edition: First Paperback

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: American Pictures Foundation; First Paperback edition (June 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 8798170201
  • ISBN-13: 978-8798170204
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 7.7 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,053,313 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Danish

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 24, 2003
Format: Paperback
I bought this book not realizing quite what I was in store for. I have now been in shock for several days as I've looked through the pictures and read the stories.
If you want to prove to "doubting Thomases" that there has been slavery in recent (1980's) America or that our pockets of poverty rival anything you'll find in the Third World, there's no shortage of information or evidence. Yes, the fact that it's dated is becoming a drawback, but not an insurmountable one. You can easily update this information by typing in place names into Google or another search engine. I learned that the slavery cases in northern Florida resulted that Holdt reported on in the early 1980's persist up to now -- several "slave owners" were sent to jail just last year from this location.
Holdt is perpetually reflective on his experiences in the States, and the insights he repeatedly throws out to the reader were as appreciated (and "rang many bells") as the pictures themselves. The people this young hitchhiking hippie met is nothing short of astounding -- his beds for the night alternated between Rockefellers and impoverished indians, African Americans, and ladies of the night. He describes all these experiences, often in the form of letters back home. His wry humor spices the text without belittling a thing. His questioning of a completely drunk Ted Kennedy over a congressional bill had me in stitches, then the insight which followed had me thinking for hours.
There are a very few somewhat provocative nude pictures of couples that might put this book off to show young teens. However, if this book was in every classroom in America, you would quickly see a change in the way American view their country, and their motivation towards finding solutions to chronic problems.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Green on November 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
Jacob Holdt's book is an outsider's account of American life. While he has all of the biases of his own upbringing in a welfare state, he has none of the biases of an American upbringing, and so his critique of American life is razor-sharp and unrelenting. His pictures contrast all aspects of life in the U.S., and are both artistically beautiful and emotionally moving. His personal politics are a central theme of the book, and the reader must not let any biases of his or her own interfere with its reading. Jacob Holdt's story is a colorful tale of people and places, of a journey, but above all it is an adventure. Think of it as a way to experience vagabonding without actually having to risk your own neck.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Francisco Gonzales on December 26, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am a huge photography nerd. This book is hands down the best book of photos I have ever seen. From what little I know about Jacob Holdt, he never really set out to be a famous or even infamous photographer. He simply set out to travel, his parents gave him a camera, and he took some pictures. This book makes Larry Clark's "Tulsa" look pedestrian. The only other photographer I can compare him to is Diane Arbus, but even her stuff is sprinkled with aristocratic restraints. Junkies, whores, alcoholics, cowboys, Klan members, sharecroppers, rich people, homeless. America is represented here. I cannot imagine what the pictures he did not print look like. This book changed my life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By C. Collins on July 30, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book should be an essential text for journalists. Such objective, factual and unbiased observation seems rare. This type of work could probably not be delivered by an American, which makes it even more worth noting. His observations on our society and culture are mostly uncritical, which makes it all the more incisive. I especially appreciated the moments where he showed up Forrest Gump-like at some critical places and events in our nation's history. The photos prove his style and skill. This book really devastated me because I know this world existed and still exists. It hurts. I can't exactly recommend this book, but it's kind of like surgery: you may need it.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By W. Sweet on November 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
It's a real testimony to how terrible things have become in this country that some reviewers will deny the testimony of their own eyes, and write this book off as left-wing propaganda. One would think that this would be an effective tool in battling the demonization of the underclass that was waged by the now-sainted Ronald Reagan. Amazing. If you have eyes, let them see.

I've owned this book since it first came out, and Holdt came to my town, and it continues to shock me. If you think you know what America is all about, get this book and challenge yourself.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Michael Showalter on November 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book features artistically beautiful pictures of America that are designed to trouble and make think; it provides elegiac photos of a world that most of its readers have never/will never see.... It is an indictment by a foreigner of a world that he can never completely grasp and that those of us born in the US will never try to....
If left alone, the pictures depicted in the book might be too much to be believed; with the text that accompanies them, written by Holdt who is left-leaning to a fault and self-described as a Marxist, they seem more dated but also more real....
This is a really good book and worth taking a look at if you can get hold of a copy. It makes one think about how the world works in these times in which we are inclined to see plenty. Readers who liked this book would definately like Jonathan Kozol's books like 'Amazong Grace'...
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