– Jacob Holdt
Jacob Holdt is a Danish photographer and lecturer who is most well known for his behemoth photography collection, American Pictures. It contains over 15,000 photos taken with a $30 Canon Dial, depicting the 400+ families that he stayed with while hitchhiking in the US during the 1970s.
The project inadvertently began when Holdt was held up at gunpoint by two young black men in the US while hitchhiking from Canada to Chile. Alarmed by the devastating living conditions of African American communities, Holdt then decided to stay in the US to document the various narratives of the American “underclass.” He did so by hitchhiking, dumpster diving and selling his blood plasma twice a week to buy film.
American Pictures received international attention in 1977 as a groundbreaking catalogue of America’s dark underbelly. In fact, the Communist bloc attempted to use it as arsenal to smear President Carter’s human rights campaign. Holdt withdrew the book less than a month after publication and refused to release it until the end of Communism.
Though Holdt’s work may portray him as an earnest man, one does not have to venture too far into his website to learn that Holdt has a wicked sense of humor (and a handsome beard to boot). Read more about his story here.