Title of a book by Jacob Holdt, much like How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis. Holdt came from Denmark to the United States, and toured the country as a vagabond for five years in the early 1970's. He took tens of thousands of pictures, and later published them with commentary as American Pictures.

The book exposes far more vividly than most people like to see, the effect of oppression on minorities and poor people. While it is not as graphic as many things we routinely see, it is much more disturbing, since everything in the pictures is a scene from a real person's day-to-day life. The commentary is similar, telling the stories of many of the people in the photographs. Here are two passages:

"...as a vagabond you cannot survive without seeing people themselves as without sin. Otherwise you would soon be eaten up inside by hatred and thereby close yourself off from the world around you."

"Your own fear of people can be overcome, because it is irrational and unfounded in reality, but you are powerless in the face of other people's fear of you: it immediately locks you up in a ghetto."

I myself have been fortunate enough to see Jacob Holdt's three-hour slideshow presentation of his book, American Pictures. I'm not a sentimental person, and don't often find myself being really moved by things that doesn't affect me directly, but this show really took us all through every emotion. Half the room was in tears when the light was turned back on. You may or may not agree with Holdt's opinions, but they really aren't essential to the show. What is essential is raising consciousness.
If you won't spend money on the actual book, at least check out the web-site at www.american-pictures.com. It's available in both English and Danish.

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