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Kodachrome Memory: American Pictures 1972-1990

Kodachrome Memory: American Pictures 1972-1990 Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

As America huffed its way to the end of the '70s, a change more profound than any one cultural trope's evolutionary death knell was taking place. Perceptively distilled in a new volume of photographs by longtime National Geographic shooter Nathan Benn, Kodachrome Memory: American Pictures 1972–1990 depicts an America of boisterous legend and vibrant regionalism, teetering on the cusp of the coming Information Age's great cultural flattening.

Nathan Benn embraced color photography before it was considered an acceptable medium for serious documentary expression, traveling globally for National Geographic magazine for two decades. In revisiting his archive of almost half a million images, and editing his photographs with a 21st-century perspective, he discovered hundreds of unpublished American pictures that appeared inconsequential to editors of the 1970s and 1980s, but now resonate—in beautiful Kodachrome color—with empathic perspectives on everyday life in forgotten neighborhoods.

Kodachrome Memory exemplifies forthright storytelling about everyday people and vernacular spaces. The photographs, organized by geographic and cultural affinities (North East, Heartland, Pittsburgh, and Florida), delight with poetic happenstance, melancholy framing, and wistful abandon. The past, an era heavily eulogized, comes alive again in its deliciously homely demeanor, and glorious Kodachrome hues. Yes, this is your father's America. An essay by scholar Paul M. Farber contextualizes the creation and selection of these images, offering a fresh perspective about color photography on the eve of the digital revolution.

"Mr. Benn's [Kodachrome Memory] is a study of regional texture, the fruit of two decades as a photographer for National Geographic. Mr. Benn's unshowy compositions and the rich, clear colors of his Kodachrome slide-film make his images seem both timeless and particular."

—The Wall Street Journal

"Kodachrome Memory celebrates the significance of American regional diversity as it was 30 or 40 years ago, before the advent of Internet culture and before the country became one vast strip mall stretching from sea to sea. The seemingly inconsequential subjects of Benn’s photographs—which are keenly observed and evocative of a time and place—act as metaphors for American culture and values. Although much of Benn’s work was done for a magazine and not gallery walls, his use of color throughout holds its own with artists of the period such as William Eggleston and Stephen Shore."

—Richard Buckley

"Even if you've never seen Nathan Benn's photographs from the 1970s, they feel somehow familiar—like the refrain of a half-remembered song. With a uniquely American mix of formality and ease, and a color palette so tart you can almost taste it, Benn makes the past vividly—even painfully—present. So there's nothing nostalgic about his pictures of parades, homecomings, and town meetings, juke joints and barbershops, front porches and back roads, because you are there. Maybe that's why Kodachrome Memory: American Pictures 1972–1990 feels like an instant classic."

—Vince Aletti

Synopsis:

As America huffed and puffed to the end of the 1970s, more than an era was ending. One America was vanishing and simultaneously giving birth to who we are today. Kodachrome Memory: American Pictures 1972–1990 presents a last glimpse of an America that was, the last stand of the old order, the final tired, proud, alive moments of distinctive regionalism before the information age hastened a great cultural flattening. If ever a camera’s shutter could render a subject infinite, these images of people rich and poor, their private spaces and material culture, capture that last America before the last revolution.

 

Nathan Benn embraced color photography before it was considered an acceptable medium for serious documentary expression, traveling globally for National Geographic Magazine for two decades. In revisiting his archive of almost half a million images, and editing his photographs with a 21st-century perspective, he discovered hundreds of unpublished American pictures that appeared inconsequential to editors of the 1970s–1980s, but now resonate with empathetic insight.

Growing up in South Florida, Benn often felt like a foreigner when he photographed in the American Heartland, a place that seemed to him to be populated by regional tribes with traits like Yankee frugality and enterprise, biases expressed in blackface and KKK cross-burning, and absurdities like a Chihuahua disguised as an elephant. He savored both the diversity and individuality of his subjects, recognizing that these characters were vanishing in an age of mass marketing and increasing commodification.

Kodachrome Memory exemplifies forthright storytelling about everyday people and vernacular spaces. The photographs, organized by geographic and cultural affinities (Yankee, Heartland, Pittsburgh, and Florida), raise questions rather than purport facts; they enchant with elegant forms and unexpected details. An essay by scholar Paul M. Farber contextualizes the creation and selection of these images, and offers a fresh perspective about color photography on the eve of the digital revolution.

"Kodachrome Memory celebrates the significance of American regional diversity as it was 30 or 40 years ago, before the advent of Internet culture and before the country became one vast strip mall stretching from sea to sea. The seemingly inconsequential subjects of Benn’s photographs—which are keenly observed and evocative of a time and place—act as metaphors for American culture and values. Although much of Benn’s work was done for a magazine and not gallery walls, his use of color throughout holds its own with artists of the period such as William Eggleston and Stephen Shore."

—Richard Buckley

About the Author

Nathan Benn is a native of Miami and photographed for major newspapers while earning his degree at the University of Miami. Immediately after graduation in 1972, he joined the photographic team at National Geographic magazine, where he remained for nearly 20 years. In 1991 he left to develop Picture Network International, the first e-commerce service for stock photography. From 2000 through 2002 he was the Director of Magnum Photos, where he published award-winning books. He is a Trustee Emeritus at the George Eastman House Museum and lives with his wife, a fine arts photographer, and son in Brooklyn.

Paul M. Farber earned his PhD in American Culture at the University of Michigan and was the Doctoral Fellow at the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C. His dissertation is a study of representations of the Berlin Wall in American literature, art, and popular culture from 1961 to present. Paul’s research interests include U.S. transnational studies, African American literary studies, urban visual and sonic cultures, Cold War history/memory, queer studies, digital humanities, hip hop, and performance studies.

Product Details

ISBN:
9781576876657
Publisher:
powerHouse Books
Publication Date:
20130931
Author:
Buckley, Richard
Author:
Farber, Paul M.
Author:
Benn, Nathan
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Pages:
168
Dimensions:
11.4 x 12.5 x 0.93 in 3.72 lb

Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Architecture » General
Arts and Entertainment » Photography » Annuals
Arts and Entertainment » Photography » Individual Photographers » Monographs
Arts and Entertainment » Photography » Photographers

Kodachrome Memory: American Pictures 1972-1990
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Product details 168 pages powerHouse Books - English 9781576876657 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , As America huffed and puffed to the end of the 1970s, more than an era was ending. One America was vanishing and simultaneously giving birth to who we are today. Kodachrome Memory: American Pictures 1972–1990 presents a last glimpse of an America that was, the last stand of the old order, the final tired, proud, alive moments of distinctive regionalism before the information age hastened a great cultural flattening. If ever a camera’s shutter could render a subject infinite, these images of people rich and poor, their private spaces and material culture, capture that last America before the last revolution.

 

Nathan Benn embraced color photography before it was considered an acceptable medium for serious documentary expression, traveling globally for National Geographic Magazine for two decades. In revisiting his archive of almost half a million images, and editing his photographs with a 21st-century perspective, he discovered hundreds of unpublished American pictures that appeared inconsequential to editors of the 1970s–1980s, but now resonate with empathetic insight.

Growing up in South Florida, Benn often felt like a foreigner when he photographed in the American Heartland, a place that seemed to him to be populated by regional tribes with traits like Yankee frugality and enterprise, biases expressed in blackface and KKK cross-burning, and absurdities like a Chihuahua disguised as an elephant. He savored both the diversity and individuality of his subjects, recognizing that these characters were vanishing in an age of mass marketing and increasing commodification.

Kodachrome Memory exemplifies forthright storytelling about everyday people and vernacular spaces. The photographs, organized by geographic and cultural affinities (Yankee, Heartland, Pittsburgh, and Florida), raise questions rather than purport facts; they enchant with elegant forms and unexpected details. An essay by scholar Paul M. Farber contextualizes the creation and selection of these images, and offers a fresh perspective about color photography on the eve of the digital revolution.

"Kodachrome Memory celebrates the significance of American regional diversity as it was 30 or 40 years ago, before the advent of Internet culture and before the country became one vast strip mall stretching from sea to sea. The seemingly inconsequential subjects of Benn’s photographs—which are keenly observed and evocative of a time and place—act as metaphors for American culture and values. Although much of Benn’s work was done for a magazine and not gallery walls, his use of color throughout holds its own with artists of the period such as William Eggleston and Stephen Shore."

—Richard Buckley

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