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Material World: A Global Family Portrait
by Peter Menzel
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0871564300, Paperback)In honor of the United Nations-sponsored International Year of the Family in 1994, award-winning photojournalist Peter Menzel brought together 16 of the world's leading photographers to create a visual portrait of life in 30 nations. Material World tackles its wide subject by zooming in, allowing one household to represent an entire nation. Photographers spent one week living with a "statistically average" family in each country, learning about their work, their attitudes toward their possessions, and their hopes for the future. Then a "big picture" shot of the family was taken outside the dwelling, surrounded by all their (many or few) material goods.
The book provides sidebars offering statistics and a brief history for each country, as well as personal notes from the photographers about their experiences. But it is the "big pictures" that tell most of the story. In one, a British family pauses before a meal of tea and crumpets under a cloudy sky. In another, wary Bosnians sit beside mattresses used as sniper barricades. A Malian family composed of a husband, his two wives, and their children rests before a few cooking and washing implements in golden afternoon light. Material World is a lesson in economics and geography, reminding us of the world's inequities, but also of humanity's common threads. An engrossing, enlightening book. --Maria Dolan
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:43 -0400)
Photo spreads, with brief commentaries, of possessions of families in more than 50 countries. Awards: SLJ Best Book. Annotation. A fascinating project--sponsored by a number of international organizations--resulting in this richly intriguing book (it will get well-deserved promotion and distribution via all sorts of media). Sixteen photographers traveled to 30 nations to live for a week with families that are "statistically average" for that nation. At the end of each visit, photographer and subjects collaborated on a portrait of the family, outside of its home, surrounded by all of its material possessions--a few jars and jugs for some, an abundance of electronic gadgetry for others. The 360 color photos are accompanied by information about the standard of living in each country, notes by the photographers about their experiences, and profiles of family members and their lives. We are witnessing the emergence of a unified world economy, as exemplified by NAFTA and GATT, that will, in theory, make goods available at cheaper prices, create new jobs throughout the world, raise standards of living, and benefit the average family. However, population growth and resource exploitation will also affect these potential benefits as patterns of consumption change. In stunning photographs and text, Material World demonstrates the present context for the emerging global economy, what it means to be "statistically average," by displaying families in more than thirty nations outside their homes - with all their possessions in view. Among the 350 stunning images are those of a family in lush Samoa juxtaposed with a Kuwaiti family and the two Mercedes-Benzes parked outside their desert home a family in Iceland posing with their treasured string instruments while a family in Sarajevo huddles outside their bullet-ridden apartment. The text describes what it means to be "average" in each of thirty very dissimilar cultures and the impact of each way of life on the local environment. Statistical information about each country accompanies the photo-essays so that readers can easily compare one culture with another.
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