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Jacob Holdt


We made our way over to the Photographers’ Gallery on Saturday to check out the Deutsche Börse Photography PrizeFour photographers were nominated for the prize, and it was won by Esko Männikkö from Finland for his retrospective show Cocktails. But for us, the real winner is Jacob Holdt, nominated for his recent book United States 1970 – 1975, published by the rather brilliant Steidl.

Here's what they have to say about the book:

In the early 1970s, when Jacob Holdt first arrived in the US with 40 dollars in his pocket, he planned to travel quickly across the country to South America. But, totally shocked and fascinated by what he discovered, he ended up staying five years. His family could scarcely believe the letters he sent them detailing the poverty he saw, so his father sent him a cheap amateur camera in order that Holdt could send home proof of his claims. Living as a vagabond, selling his blood twice a week, hitch-hiking over 100,000 miles, he depicted an incredible and unique portrait of America and its underclass. He befriended whomever offered him a lift in their car and a lift frequently became an offer to stay a few days. He never said no and ended up visiting more than 350 homes where he photographed the people he lived with: poor blacks from the ghettos, millionaires, junkies, members of the Ku Klux Klan. Holdt’s images echo the pictures of the F.S.A. and together with the work of another Dane Jacob Riis, his series have widely inspired the film-maker Lars von Trier for the movies Dogville and Manderlay.

The book features a selection of images from his American Pictures series, originally published in a bestselling book in 1977, and toured worldwide as a slideshow ever since. He’s an incredible man – just check out his curriculum vitae.

The show runs at the gallery until 6 April 2008, and is really fantastic. If you get a chance, go.


posted: 10 March 2008
categories: Photography
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