From the catalogue of Museum of Modern Arts Louisiana:
"Faith, hope and love" by Jacob Holdt

Text on Jacob Holdt

Holdt's role as a mediator


Jacob Holdt’s role as a mediator and cultural commentator has been a central feature of his activity. In 1975, he started to write and photograph for The Black Panther Party newspaper and for the Danish daily newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad. In 1976, Holdt created the first of his slide-show lectures, presenting a sequence of his pictures of America inside the rectory of the church where his father was a minister. Shortly thereafter, he began to receive invitations from all over Denmark to show his slide-show, which had come to be titled American Pictures. Husets Teater in Copenhagen, offered to host the show for a period of two months solid.

Later on the Danish daily newspaper Information published American Pictures as a book. It immediately became a best seller. The slide-show presentation also became a success and was shown in Denmark to some 2,000 people every single day. In 1977, Holdt opened his own theater on Købmagergade, one of the central pedestrian malls in Copenhagen, where Amerikanske Billeder began an unbroken 10-year run.

In 1978, the West German magazine Der Spiegel published the book as a serial feature. At the same time, the book became a best seller in West Germany. A feature-length movie version of the slide-show was also created, which was then presented at the Cannes Film Festival in 1981 and subsequently at film festivals in London, Berlin, Dublin, Moscow, South Africa, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The following year, Holdt and local volunteers opened a theatre in San Francisco for the steady presentation of Holdt’s slide-show lecture.

From 1984, Holdt started to tour universities in the United States on a regular basis. In short order, he became one of the most widely employed lecturers in the history of American universities. At many of the most elite universities, viewing Holdt’s slide-show presentation was made mandatory for all freshman students.

"As a Dane, coming from one of the world’s most egalitarian societies, I didn’t photograph the things that resembled my own society as much as the things that were completely different, the filthy rich and the filthy poor, which I’d never seen before. It was shocking to me. And I soon discovered how this was also a visually effective way to get my message out."

At the close of the 1990s – and after more than 6,500 slide-show presentations, Holdt began to scale down his activity traveling around in the United States so that he could devote himself in an even more concentrated way to taking pictures of his friends in the ghettoes. Around this time, Holdt also resumed presenting the slide-show lecture in Denmark.

In 2002, Holdt started – in the United States – working with the Ku Klux Klan. He conducted a number of interviews with Klan members about the ill treatment they had suffered during their childhood, with an eye toward making an interactive DVD for teachers worldwide about racism and oppression. He is still trying to get funding for this project. However, a movie about Holdt and his involvement with the Ku Klux Klan has been produced.

Today, Jacob Holdt continues to present a great many talks and lectures to students, organizations and political forums. Not only is American Pictures continually being revised and updated but Jacob Holdt also offers an extensive group of other lectures and workshops dealing with the themes of racism and oppression. These companioned with similar educational projects on his webside

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