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What Matters: The World's Preeminent Photojournalists and Thinkers Depict Essential Issues of Our Time Hardcover – September 2, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Cohen, creator of the photojournalism book America 24/7, edits this socially conscious collection of haunting photographs and disappointing essays that focus on the unchecked ravages of genocide, global warming, AIDS, child labor, extreme poverty and compulsive consumerism. While the pictures—especially the chilling Images of Genocide and Stephanie Seymour's portraits of child brides—disquiet with their beauty and horror, the accompanying text from such luminaries as Jeffrey Sachs and Bill McKibben is unfortunately hollow and anodyne, particularly Cohen's introduction (do something... even something small... to help repair the world), but Omer Bartov's statement that Iconic photographs both record the deeds and potentially anesthetize us to them provides a powerful caveat for this collection. (Sept.)
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"Great documentary photojournalism, squeezed out of mainstream newspapers and magazines in an age of shrinking column inches, has had a hard time gaining traction in other venues... But nobody has told the 18 photographers in What Matters: The World's Preeminent Photojournalists and Thinkers Depict Essential Issues of Our Time. These are photo essays by some of today's best photojournalists following the great tradition begun over a hundred years ago with the exposés of New York tenement life by Jacob Riis. Through the doggedness of these photographerswho are clearly committed to stirring us out of complacencyall the power and passion of the medium is evident in this book... Some of the pieces will break your heart, some will anger you. All will make you think. To channel your thoughts and feelings into action, the book ends with an appendix "What You Can Do," offering hundreds of ways to be a part of the solution to these problems."
"David Elliot Cohen’s new book, What Matters, which hits bookshelves today, is a collection of photo essays that explore 18 distinct social issues that define our time. Shot by the world’s most renowned photojournalists, including James Nachtwey, who has contributed to V.F., the photographs explore topics ranging from genocide and global warming to oil addiction and consumerism, offering a raw view into the problems that plague our world. Each photo essay is accompanied by written commentary from an expert on the issue. Cohen hopes the book will inspire people to work toward resolving these problems. Great photojournalism changed the world in the past, and it can do it again,” Cohen says. I want people to see these images, get angry, and act on that anger. Compelling images by the world’s best photojournalists is the most persuasive language I have to achieve this.”
- vanityfair.com, http://www.vanityfair.com/online/politics/2008/09/what-matters.html
- Popular Photography, http://flash.popphoto.com/blog/2008/08/book-review-wha.html
- Library Journal, http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6598644.html
What Matters is about big questions and big problems that beg for big solutions.
- Florida Times Union (Jacksonville), http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/092808/lif_337282446.shtml
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Top customer reviews
Issues and images combine in 'What Matters,' a powerful and passionate new book
By Michael Zajakowski
Chicago Tribune Book Review
September 6, 2008
Great documentary photojournalism, squeezed out of mainstream newspapers and magazines in an age of shrinking column inches, has had a hard time gaining traction in other venues. Although it has found new life on web sites and in books, the age of the topical visual long form is in remission.
But nobody has told the 18 photographers in "What Matters: The World's Preeminent Photojournalists and Thinkers Depict Essential Issues of Our Time."
These are photo essays by some of today's best photojournalists following the great tradition begun over a hundred years ago with the exposés of New York tenement life by Jacob Riis. Through the doggedness of these photographers--who are clearly committed to stirring us out of complacency--all the power and passion of the medium is evident in this book.
David Elliot Cohen, who co-created the famous "Day in the Life" series of photojournalism books, had a keen eye in selecting the photo essays and coupling each with cogent commentary from writers such as Samantha Power, professor at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government; Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of the Earth Institute and Columbia University professor; and Elizabeth C. Economy, director for Asian Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
The book is an engrossing journey from pristine wilderness to glittering Rodeo Drive boutiques with stops along the way focusing on genocide, global jidad, child labor and AIDS victims in Africa, to name a few.
In a provocative bit of editing, James Nachtwey's searing photo essay about global poverty, "The Bottom Billion," is jarringly followed by Lauren Greenfield's "Shop til We Drop," a vivid but embarrassing look at another extreme, which is only slightly less shameful than the first.
Some of the pieces will break your heart, some will anger you. All will make you think. To channel your thoughts and feelings into action, the book ends with an appendix "What You Can Do," offering hundreds of ways to be a part of the solution to these problems.
The book's description above really captures the essence of What Matters so definitely go back and read it if you haven't already. The book is a compilation of some of the most fantastic photojournalism I've ever seen, done by people who are genuinely concerned about these issues, and have put together a book that they hope will make a difference in some of these issues and inspire people to think about said issues, and even better, do something about them. The book flows excellently from pictures to text and back - it's put together similarly to Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth (which I also loved). The photographs are, of course, magnificent, but the writing itself is also pretty fantastic. The way the authors (of both the written pieces and the photographs) made these issues come to life, made them so clearly EVERYONE'S problems and not "their" problems, the way they made them so personal with stories and pictures, it was just amazing. I am doing an awful job of describing what I loved about this book because I found it to be so important and really just a necessary read. It is hard sometimes for me to articulate my thoughts when I feel so strongly about something like I do this book - it has made me somewhat speechless.
But really, I'm shocked that I hadn't heard of What Matters before; I think it can easily be considered one of the best nonfiction of 2008, and I'd really, STRONGLY encourage everyone to go pick it up. I will totally be buying this one when it comes out in paperback (hopefully, it does), because it's definitely something I'd like to have in my collection to read again and share with others.
Please read What Matters. You will not be sorry that you did.
From a technical standpoint, the photographs are brilliantly reproduced and sequenced well, in a way that most poignantly and directly tells the story. This book is highly recommended both as a great read and a visual document of our times.