Saturday, September 05, 2009

Visions of America: Photographing Democracy

Having recently taken a digital photography class, I was very excited to get my hands on a photography book to end all photography books:
Visions of America: Photographing Democracy, by Joseph Sohm. Since I took the class, I find that I have a much greater respect for photographers and their craft. Great photographs are not always happy accidents as I've always assumed--or even a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Great photographs take knowledge, practice, a great understanding of the art of photography, and learning to use a digital SLR camera well is no simple task.

Joseph Sohm definitely knows how to wield a camera. In fact, don't just read this review, but take the time to click on the pictures I've provided to see bigger versions and the great detail in each one.

But back to the book...

Aside from the draw of beautiful photography, I was also intrigued by Sohm's idea to photograph democracy. Any attempt to make tangible a concept so truly abstract is a cool undertaking. The result is a multifaceted collection of images from all across America. Farms, cities, Native Americans, African Americans, European Americans, parades, football games, baseball, flags, license plates, restaurants, artwork, historical sites, presidents, trees, deserts, hills, valleys, skylines, animals, and any other aspect of America you can think of.

The images are lumped into chapters, a few of which are titled: "Ameri-Icons," "Red White BLACK - From Africa to America," "Town and Country - Roots of Democracy," and "Vox Populi - Presidents 'R' Us." Each chapter is accompanied by one of Sohm's essays on his years-long journey creating the book. He set out to photograph Americans united and divided, at work and play, and in settings all around this country. For ultimately democracy is not one thing, but many things.

While no one may ever be able to exactly pin democracy down, Sohm has taken a great shot at it, and the result is a beautiful chronicle of America in pictures that I'll keep on my shelves for years to come.

Vist the website:


  1. This sounds so neat! I hope my library has it. :D I've read a couple awesome photography books this year-The Oxford Project and Annie Leibowitz' Women.

  2. I hope so too, Eva! I think you'd really like it. I'll have to look up the books you mentioned. I especially love Leibowitz.

  3. Definitely a book I want to find and read? look at?

    Thank you for sharing it.

  4. Thanks, Deb! I hope you enjoy it when you can get hold of it.

  5. My husband has been on a big photography kick after our vacation so I'm going to have to recommend this one to him!


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