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Book Reviews: America 101

America 101. Photographs by Arthur Grace.
Published by Fall Line Press, 2012.
America 101
Reviewed by Tom Leininger

America 101
Photographs by Arthur Grace
Fall Line Press,
2012. Hardbound. 128 pp., 101 black & white illustrations, 11-1/2x11-1/2".

Arthur Grace is a photographer who knows how to get his point across. Working as a wire service photographer in the 1970s trained him to sum up situations with a neutral, direct photographic language. This book is not a collection of retread journalistic pictures but a vision of a photographer with a statement to make.

Typically, America is shown in books as a road trip a photographer may have made, or as a colorfully sentimental place. In this book Grace uses wit and humor to point out the small quirks of America, politicians and the landscape. Middle and rural America is well represented here.

America 101, by Arthur Grace. Published by Fall Line Press, 2012.

The book starts with extreme scenes from the Boston busing crisis in the middle 1970s. Grace reminds us that America has moments in history that cause pain. He takes us along the edges of the political circus and down country roads to the America more people live in, but is not always highlighted.

America 101, by Arthur Grace. Published by Fall Line Press, 2012.
America 101, by Arthur Grace. Published by Fall Line Press, 2012.

The book is sized appropriately. Pictures play off each other adding to the experience and statement Grace is making. The star covered endpapers are nice touch. With grey being dominant color, we are seeing an America that is not just blue or red, to use 2012 terms. It is a wide tonal range of America. By using black and white Grace is taking out the emotionalism and sentimentality of color.

America 101, by Arthur Grace. Published by Fall Line Press, 2012.

Grace demonstrates a way of picture making that is not often seen today. Photojournalism and documentary photography has become more visually aware of itself. Grace comes from a time and place where content is king and overt technique is for the court jesters. Times have changed and overt technique and aesthetics seem to matter more than content filled pictures with a subtle message. This book is a rallying cry for those that care about content.—TOM LEININGER

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TOM LEININGER is a photographer and educator based in North Texas. More of his work can be found on his website.

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Leininger, who is a perceptive photographer himself, offers a sensitive, accurate word picture of Arthur Grace's "America 101". He is especially right in his distinction between so much of current emphasis on technique and aesthetics vs. content and messsage, but I suggest that the photographs in "America 101" present their content with highly sophisticated technique.

    Mr. Leininger makes another good point in his statement that the photographs play off against each other. I would make that statement stronger. Arthur Grace's photographs not only play off against one another, but shock the viewer page to page to page into different perceptions of the America we think we know, but suddenly with a turn of the next page find out we don't know as well as we thought.

    Edward Albee said the measure of a good play is whether one keeps thinking and talking about it days snd weeks and years after one has left the theatre. I looked through "America 101" four times, and it's not enough. I expect I shall be looking at those photographs many more times, even more than I have Arthur Grace's previous books.