Visions of America LLC - Photography/Coffee table
Visions of America website
When I opened the book -- and it's a whopper of a book at approximately a foot square and 312 pages -- I thought, "No big deal; I'll whip this review out in no time." But, it's not just another coffee table book. The author set out to photograph a concept that's a little hard to understand: democracy. I don't think of democracy as something one can photograph and I still have a little trouble with that particular title, even after reading the text, but what I think the author accomplished in the process was a comprehensive view of America, her history, her people, the beauty and ugliness and the vast array of backgrounds represented by this unique nation and its hodge-podge of citizens. It took me a long time to get around to reviewing because it's so beautiful that I wanted to take my time and savor the book. I probably shouldn't have done that, but I certainly did enjoy the reading and viewing.From the author's letter that came with the book:
“Visions of America” is premised on a single question – “how do you photograph Democracy?” (After all it’s an idea!). My answer unfolds over 1300 images and 21 essays that catapult you on an unforgettable journey across the fifty states.Although as a photographer, I have been published over 50,000 times in the worldwide media – from the NY Times, National Geographic, CNN, NBC, the Wall Street Journal and in hundreds if not thousands of books (including the cover of John Grisham’s “King of Torts” and the back-cover of Bill Clinton’s “My Life”), “Visions of America” represents my first solo title where I serve as both photographer and author.
I'm not going to copy the entire letter, but I thought that section gives you a good understanding of the concept.
The book itself is divided into thirteen chapters. All packed with stunning photos but my absolute favorite chapter is "Photographic Memory - Living and Loving History". The author talks about his desire to somehow inject history into the book but feeling like it was one area he was likely to come up short because you can't simply turn back the clock. And, then he realized he was wrong. Living history exhibits and reenactments of battles and events take place in the United States all the time. So, for this particular chapter, he sought out places and events where he could photograph people dressed in historical costume, reenacting important events in America's history, playing the roles as if they were occurring right now. I think the results are absolutely stunning. Some of those photographs look like he dug through archives to locate photos that fit the time, but they're not. They're all modern, taken during his 30-year quest to photograph democracy.
Layout-wise, my initial impression was that the book is too cluttery. I'm a little on the ADD side and I prefer a clean layout and large photos to montages. The advantage to that heavy layout is that, as a coffee table book, you can't beat the fact that you could return to it 100 times, flipping through casually, and find something new each time. And, the photographs are so phenomenal that I can't imagine anyone sitting down to look at it and not saying something to the effect of "Ooooh. Ahhh." My husband and son were also impressed, although they're even more twitchy than I am and didn't look at the entire book. Guys.
My rating: 5/5 for the photographs and 4/5 for the layout. My desire for a cleaner layout still hollers at me, but I don't think you can lose by purchasing this book. You could honestly enjoy flipping through it for years.
Visions of America can be purchased (and autographed) through the author's website and will arrive more quickly than if you order through Amazon -- if, say, you're in a hurry to buy a copy for a gift or specifically want that signature. I highly recommend it for gift-giving.
Thanks to the author and Lisa Roe for my review copy.