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Material World: A Global Family Portrait Paperback – October 3, 1995
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In honor of the United Nations-sponsored International Year of the Family in 1994, award-winning photojournalist Peter Menzel brought together 16 of the world's leading photographers to create a visual portrait of life in 30 nations. Material World tackles its wide subject by zooming in, allowing one household to represent an entire nation. Photographers spent one week living with a "statistically average" family in each country, learning about their work, their attitudes toward their possessions, and their hopes for the future. Then a "big picture" shot of the family was taken outside the dwelling, surrounded by all their (many or few) material goods.
The book provides sidebars offering statistics and a brief history for each country, as well as personal notes from the photographers about their experiences. But it is the "big pictures" that tell most of the story. In one, a British family pauses before a meal of tea and crumpets under a cloudy sky. In another, wary Bosnians sit beside mattresses used as sniper barricades. A Malian family composed of a husband, his two wives, and their children rests before a few cooking and washing implements in golden afternoon light. Material World is a lesson in economics and geography, reminding us of the world's inequities, but also of humanity's common threads. An engrossing, enlightening book. --Maria Dolan
About the Author
Peter Menzel has photographed stories for National Geographic, Paris Match, Stern, The New York Times Magazine, and Time. He lives in Napa, California. Charles C. Mann is a contributing editor of Atlantic Monthly. He has covered scientific and environmental issues for The New York Times Magazine and other publications. He lives in New York City.
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I'm not so sure about the "statistically average" American family they chose to include. Is it the fact that I don't believe that most Americans are all about guns, Bibles and cowboy hats? Or is it the troubling thought that this might indeed be the case?