A true eccentric, Mr. Holdt has created a body of work that is both brutally honest yet remarkably sympathetic both to the oppressors and the oppressed.
An experiment in oppression
“The show reveals the psychological costs of racism on both the black and the white mind. Yet it is not only a “show” about the victims of racism, but also an experiment in oppression.
The technique of the show is to incessantly bombard the audience with a one-sided view from the position of the black underclass, a view in sharp contrast to the Horato Alger myth.
There is no opportunity for rationalization or justification. A form of oppression ensues which gradually breaks down the defenses of the audience. It effectively creates a momentary role reversal letting the astonished students actually experience the emotions black people often suffer in everyday white society. This closeds the way for whites to begin to identify with and understand black reactions.” – Jacob Holdt
What makes American Pictures so disturbingly powerful is the cumulative effects of Holdt’s photographs combined with his outsider’s analysis of the dynamics of poverty and oppression in the U.S.[/su_quote]
The welfare state….. Or the lack of it
An important thrust both in the show and discussion groups concerns institutionalized poverty, fear and insecurity. As an outsider having grown up in a European welfare state Jacob Holdt challenges what he understands as established American thought patterns by demonstrating the enormous financial and human costs of life without cradle-to-grave security.
[su_quote cite=”Lisa Anne Auerbach, The Art Book Review”]American Pictures is a wild book that’s all shock and awe and freakshow. Self-published by photographer and “vagabond” Jacob Holdt, the book is a fucked-up wacky look at America by a guy who makes a habit of jumping into bed with his subjects and hanging out at cross burnings with the Ku Klux Klan. The dude has love and respect for all people, in a Jesus kind of way, and he wears a beard braided down to his belly button in order to let everyone know that he’s a weirdo too.
It is his selfless love for humanity which allows him to move back and forth between the worlds of the fabulously wealthy and the destitute with surprising ease, thus enabling him to live with the Southern “aristocracy”, get drunk with millionaires, and befriend street people, drug addicts, gays, lesbians, transsexuals, pimps and prostitutes. Before leaving the country he even attempts to bring about reform in the American prison system. The reader soon realizes that Holdt is better qualified than are most Americans to treat such complex issues as alcoholism, malnutrition, unionization, American religion, the K.K.K., black pride and integration.
Read more about Jacob Holdt’s project and the full review from ASX.