Friday, March 12, 2010

American Pictures

Over 20 years ago I saw the American Pictures documentary slide show billed as:
A documentary with 3,000 pictures,  music, interviews and narration presented on two screens for audiences of  up to 2,000.
A visually moving and therapeutically healing journey through the deep racist subconsciousness of the spectator.
It was an assault on the senses.   3000 of these images bombarded the audience.  The collection photos were taken personally by the author Jacob Holdt, whom narrated throughout the 100+ minute presentation.   I seem to recall a question and answer session.  I still have the book signed by the author.

Read "How I made my pictures:"
But gradually I made friends with some blacks and lived with them. Without myself at first knowing it, this started giving me a positive view of blacks whom I could no longer see as monsters I should fear, but as human beings I could trust. As I thus freed myself of the white racist fear, my body language apparently changed so that I now sent opposite signals to the children of pain such as “You are good, I have reason to trust you.” All people are starving for positive encouragement, but nobody as much as those who have suffered rejection from our aversive behavior since childhood. For them this was a message of love and from the moment I learned such non-violent communication even the worst ghetto criminals - and later even mass murderers and KKK-people - took me by the hand to show me around in their world of pain. Feeling safe everywhere I could from now on travel as a free human being and started living in the ghettos. From 1972 until today I have not been attacked or robbed a single time even though the crime and murder rate exploded in the intervening 35 years
My photography is thus a result of non-violent communication with the victims of a violent racism. My parents - in disbelief of my written accounts - sent me after one year a pocket-size Canon Dial for my birthday asking me to send some pictures home. I had never photographed before and saw it first as my visual diary helping me to remember all the people who gave me hospitality and food in more than 400 homes over 5 years as a “vagabond”
Watch it Here.

Needless to say, some of my early ideas concerning propaganda as art were influenced by this stage event.  It is therefore highly recommended.

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