American Pictures

Jacob Holdt: The Father of American Pictures

American Pictures was created by Jacob Holdt. Jacob Holdt first came to America in the early 1970s and began hitchhiking around the United States. A self described vagabond, Jacob began writing home about his experiences with the American underclass during the 1970s ; much to his dismay Jacob’s parents and friends did not believe the horrific stories he retold. In an effort to provide some kind of evidence to accompany his stories, his parents sent him a camera from Denmark.

Jacob stayed primarily with African American families in his travels across America (especially through the South). While he himself has witnessed innumerable acts of racism (and seen firsthand the impact of racism with the families and people he has stayed with) he contends that his experiences with the American “underclass” has lead to not only the development of American Pictures, but the development of his personality and views as well. Although Jacob is known, and may be known better, for American Pictures, he has made it clear to the world that his ambitions lie in conquering Denmark by foot. He plans to run over 800 miles from Copenhagen to the North Sea before the bridge to Sweden opens. It is a feat that has never been accomplished and rarely attempted. He has planned this incredible display of physical endurance and stamina around the idea that cars create unnecessary pollution and adversely affect the situation of global warming in many developing countries.

He is also the “World’s Greatest Collector of e-mail jokes”, although this title is self proclaimed and not lent by an official validating agency that would assess and then judge his standing against other world renowned e-mail joke collectors.

Nevertheless, Jacob Holdt is best known for the four hour interactive presentation American Pictures that he presents on college campuses, high schools, and over 300 college campuses.

American Pictures

Jocob Holdt came to America with $40 and an idea that he would only stay for a short visit. He wound up staying five years and hitchhiking over 100,000 miles and staying with countless families and friends. He stayed with a wide variety of people, both rich and poor, across America. His pictures range from the dramatic to the religious to the secret rituals of the KKK. During his ravels he saw two of his friends assassinated. When he decided to leave America 12 of his friends had been killed. He has since lost count of how many of his friends have been murdered. Holdt has not only documented his time in America, he has also photographed his work with CARE (global poverty fighting organization, in Bolivia and Nepal. American Pictures will be screened on November 20th at 6pm in Marsh Life Science 235.