American Pictures

Jacob Holdt: 
My Curriculum Vitae  

(or personal diary/year book) 


Note: If you look for any educational degrees, formal occupations, job promotions or honorary awards you are looking under the wrong person. This CV goes mainly to show that life can be quite fun without. 

Born in Copenhagen to Jacob and Grethe Holdt. My father a minister of the Church of Grundtvig

Move to the small village of Faaborg in Western Denmark where I grow up in a wonderful rectory. 

I start in 1st grade in Slebsager School in the countryside close to the village. There are only 3 rooms for the 7 grades and for long periods one teacher has to teach us all simultaneously by walking from one room to the next due to shortage of teachers.

Shortly after the Soviet invasion of Hungary - which makes a deep impression on me - I make my first rebellion, kicking and screaming my father when he wanted me to go to church. From then on I only have to go to church every second Sunday. 

When playing with two of my school friends we burn down my father's forest. 

I write a big essay on Albert Schweitzer - my hero at the time - whose childhood I identify strongly with. Same year I am choked by the Sharpeville massacre which makes an indelible impression on me. 

I start preliminary school on the very same dark day the Berlin wall comes up. I cry - along with most of Africa - over Lumumba's execution in Congo. 

I start high school in Esbjerg, the "big" town 15 miles away, where the teachers don't understand my dialect. 

Kicked out after 2 years in high school for laziness. Receptionist in Hotel Varde, where I am fired. 

Go to Krogerup Folk High School where I experience a beginning political awakening. During the summer I am drafted into the Royal Danish Palace Guard

I am thrown out of the Palace Guard after 8 months. Among other things for refusing to shoot a gun. 

Live in a former funeral home in Copenhagen, where I put up a hotchpotch of people. Among them a Marxist Sikh student leader expelled from India after pressure from the USA. Also I house several escaped American Vietnam deserters, who help to strongly politicize me. During the 1968 European youth rebellion I am part of a little activist group which is involved in many actions against the Vietnam war and the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia. 

I have so many pending court cases that I decide to emigrate. To protest the spending of money for a new church tower I paint over my father's church with Bible quotes on how you should rather spend money on the starving children during the Biafra war than build towers for God. It is not a pleasant Easter morning view for my father who kicks me out.

The parents of a 17 year old run-away Canadian girl, whom I have housed for half a year, invite me to Canada.  I go to Canada to work on the farm of Dr. Charles Godfrey near Toronto for a year. Here I work with an Argentinean political refugee. We decide to hitchhike to Chile to participate in Salvador Allende's democratic revolution. 

Hitchhike off toward Latin America, but turn around in St. Louis - afraid of hitching through the South. I am invited to stay with a young black woman, Denia, on the south-side of Chicago. I suddenly find myself with only black people around and right away fall in love with black America.
I still want to go to Latin America and hitchhike the safer route over Canada down the West Coast.
In San Francisco I get robbed by three blacks after a couple of days and decides to find out where all that anger and pain is coming from.
I get invited to stay with members of Angela Davis' Lumumba resistance group at the time of her arrest. I get more and more interested in the black struggle and keep delaying my departure to Latin America.
I am choked by the massacres in Kent State and Attica prison and begin to travel through America's ghettos. I send hair- raising letters home to my parents and friends and after half a year my parents sends me a cheap half-frame camera and ask me to send pictures home. I am first a bit apprehensive about photographing rather than involving myself, but gradually I am hooked. 

After a brief involvement with the Black Panthers whose national paper I keep delivering pictures to during the 5 years, I am increasingly disappointed about the apathy in the ghettoes and decide to travel to Latin America for good. This time with a black activist from Detroit in order to join up with the guerrilla in Guatemala. We agree to meet in Mexico City where I end up staying with a rich family. But Chris turns around after San Diego - unable as a black man to get any rides. Instead I continue with various American women as traveling partners and manage to get inside Guatemala with the help of a short hair wig. I am frequently stopped by soldiers and - after much hitchhiking in the mountains - never find the guerrilla. Read in Time Magazine that there will be protests at the republican convention and instead hitchhike to Miami. My Latin American revolutionary romance is over and only 6 days after I succeed with the help of the short hair wig to get housed in President Nixon's head quarter for 4 days before being arrested by the Secret Service

Hitchhike aimlessly around the USA, only stopped by various love affairs, but soon I am again faced with the choice between the gun or the camera when the rebellion in Wounded Knee breaks out. I help smuggle guns in at night time, but one of the Indian leaders falls in love with me and keeps me away from the actual struggle. For half a year I cannot photograph as the camera is broken and I don't have the 29 dollars to fix it for. 

I travel in ghettos throughout the country. On September 13th I get married to a poor black woman, Annie Rush, and end up in a hopeless ghetto situation. Am active in the United Prisoners Union in San Francisco and does outreach work for Rev. Cecil Williams in Glide Memorial Church. Work with a black panther trying to feed hundreds of people in the church. Also get involved in petty crime with street people in order to survive. 

My best friend in California, Popeye Jackson is assassinated - and I escape out on the highways again. Fall a bit in love with Mary - a poor black woman in Alabama - but white bigots firebomb her house. These incidents make me increasingly feel that my photography has too big human consequences. I had arrived in the US with $40 and now return "home" to Denmark - disillusioned - but with 15000 pictures. 12 of my friends have been murdered (since then more than 22). 

In two months I make a slide show in my parents rectory and show it in the local churches and schools. My father helps with money to buy slide projectors for. He wants to dispel the rumors that have circulated in my village during my five year absence of "the minister's son having become a junkie, a criminal, a prostitute etc. in the USA." 
News about the show spread fast and in April the national intellectual newspaper "Information" makes a 5 page story and organizes a well publicized tour for - what the paper now names -  "American Pictures". In some places up to 3000 people stand in line to get in. "Information"'s publishing division wants to make a book of the material and take me to the book fair in Frankfurt, where the book is sold off to a number of countries before I have even written it. I have no idea about how to write a book and end up just using the text from the show along with some personal letters. 

I send a long letter to all my American friends about the success. Some call me up crying. They had - like myself - never thought anything would come out of my pictures. One of them, the black social worker Tony Harris, immediately comes to Denmark to help. He becomes the first of later five black co-workers, who each gets a car and a copy of the show to go on tour with. Each of them frequently has one showing in the morning in a school and one in the evening for the general public whereby up to 2000 Danes per day see the show for a number of years. Concurrently we tour in 14 other countries with the show in 7 languages. 
In April the Danish book "Amerikanske Billeder" is published in 10.000 copies - sold out in two weeks. Later it sells 80.000 copies in Denmark - equivalent to 3.5 million in the USA. I had never had time to write a contract with Information, who right away wants to sell the book all over the world - including the USA. It frightens me to get all that publicity and a Russian KGB-agent reveals to me over dinner that the Communist Block intends to use the book against President Carter's human rights campaign. I begin using lawyers in a long legal battle with Information to get the book stopped in the rest of the world. I break down crying in the manager's office to get them to stop what has for "Information" become quite an economic pillar, but which I see as a "Frankenstein monster". I manage to get a contract so "narrow" that the book is practically stopped from further sales - apart from the 9 countries where the damage was done. 

For the first time I am invited to an American university. After the show they give me a car in order that I can go around and present the show for all my friends appearing in the show. After a private showing in Jane Fonda's house in Santa Monica Hollywood promoters wants to organize a "nationwide tour" in 76 larger cities - right away! After a test screening for all of Muhammed Ali's family and various lawyers, they want to make me a "superstar" on the Johnny Carson Show with a grand opening in a Hollywood theater for invited movie stars. I am again frightened by the prospects and ask for time to go around to all the photographed people in order to get their approval first. In my own head, however, I already know that I will break off the contact with Hollywood. 

The large German newsmagazine Der Spiegel brings for the first time ever color photos in order to serialize my book. The book at the same time becomes the biggest bestseller ever for a foreign book in Germany. I receive tons of letters from both East- and West Germans. 
As a result of the financial success I establish the "American Pictures Foundation for Humanitarian Aid to Africa" with the 10 co-workers. The idea is that all the money from the show, the book and since the movie shall belong to the victims of European colonialism. It is easy for a photographer to get success by exploiting the suffering of the poor. What matters is to make a success of the success: namely with the pictures to constructively change conditions for the poor. 

We start out by giving a 2 year scholarship to a student from Uganda. We also get permission to take a black American - sentenced to life for murder - out of the prison in the daytime in order to make him the daily leader of the foundation. 

We start the two year project of making a movie based on the show for cinemas and TV and end up wasting a quarter of a million dollars on it. The cost would have been much higher had we not used volunteers for most of the work. After turning down several professional photographers we end up letting the young high school student Jens Jørgen Jensen be in charge of the technical transfer of slides to film, which takes place in my bedroom. 

We get involved in large spy scandal. One of our volunteers, Jörg Meier - one of my most trusted and clever helpers who had made and narrated my German show and taken care of all my German correspondence - turns out to be a planted East German spy. He is since part of the big "spy swap" with East Germany - along with West German Chancellor Willy Brandt's personal secretary. Apart from being a spy he is an incredible human being whom we have come to deeply love. So while he is in a Danish prison he continues to work for us: he builds a sound studio in his cell where he does the narration for our movie - while organizing shows for us in the prison system - and publishing his own poems written in Danish. 

As a result of President Carter's (and later Reagan's) campaign for human rights the communist countries, however, display a bit too much interest in American Pictures. They see it as a more persuasive tool than their own propaganda to show that human rights are pretty bad in the U.S. as well. Through all these years Russian agents frequently invite me out for dinner, where they sometimes try to get me to change certain parts of the show well aware that it has "changed a generation of young people's attitude to the USA." 

That American Pictures has become an important part of the cold war power struggle over hearts and minds we now frequently have confirmed: when American congressmen visiting Denmark ask the ambassador about his problems, he often begins a long story about a long bearded guy running around spreading bad rumors about the US. Yet, sometimes East and West are in surprising agreement about the show: one week the KGB asks me if I "can't put more poor whites into the show so it doesn't look like only blacks are suffering in America". Less than a week later the American ambassador tells me with almost the same words: "You ought to have more about poor whites in the show to give it a little more balance." Both of them evidently misunderstand the show - and have certainly no interest in its deeper anti-racist message. As a former penniless vagabond and outsider, however, I often find myself perplexed about being a pawn in the superpower struggle and am often thrown into depressions. 

I fly to Miami to see the race riots first hand - a week before my son's baptism - and hitchhike to New York to take graffiti photos for the movie. I manage to get home an hour before the baptism. The volunteers are increasingly frustrated about how the movie is swallowing all the money set aside for Africa. I personally gamble that the movie is a necessary investment in order to increase the funds for Africa, but in my own mind I start having doubts about it. If successful it will perhaps just be used by the Communist Block against the USA. 

The blacks in the group - on the other hand - are of the opinion that the more outside pressure which is put on America, the more the American government will be forced to take positive steps for American blacks - just as was the case during the Civil Rights struggle. I feel convinced by the blacks that my position is selfish "since all I am thinking about is to secure my own return to America." Secretly, however, I play around with thoughts about selling the whole movie to the CIA for a huge amount which can be donated to our Africa projects in return for a promise that I can return to America - rather than gambling with our African money. Probably the CIA would have accepted the offer, for - as it is later revealed in the American media - at that very moment the U.S. State department spends large sums of money to try to counter the effects of American Pictures in Europe. 

All our volunteers take off for the Cannes Film Festival with the movie, which according to American papers "create a sensation" there. It is immediately invited to film festivals in London, Berlin, Moscow, South Africa, Los Angeles and San Francisco. It is sold to Channel Four in Britain for $83,000 which we right away send to Zimbabwe. Here we have just started a school project for 1200 refugee children coming back home after the war. Since Zimbabwe is now free and even democratic we no longer have to go through the Russians in order to deal with the Marxist bureaucracy of Angola. 

I have no interest in the European Film festivals, but in the fall I present the movie at the San Francisco Film Festival for 1600 people - constantly applauding. Afterwards the show is given for a month in the University of Chicago by my two American volunteers, Tony Harris and Howard Pinderhughes, while I hitchhike around to visit old friends in the ghettos. 

I travel with Kitte Fennestad to Africa invited by the governments of Mozambique and Zimbabwe. However, passengers in the Russian airplane recognize me from stories in Pravda and Izvestia and fill us up with vodka. So rather than picking us up in the airport, the government of Mozambique puts us in prison to sober up. In Zimbabwe, where the media blasts out with headlines such as "the good Samaritan visiting Zimbabwe", we are first chauffeured around in a Limousine. When we object the government lets a former freedom fighter drive us to our school project in the mountains. Here we are given a heart warming reception by the inhabitants, who are moved by the pictures in my book: "Why don't these poor (black Americans) come home (to Africa)?" they ask - convinced that life here would be better for them. 

Afterwards we hitchhike around and find the cooperative farm Batsiranai, where 120 devoted former guerrillas from the recent war of independence have been given 5000 acres of land by the government, but no machinery. We immediately promise them help and later in the year send them tractor and farm machinery. We feel this is the best investment we can make in the struggle against South African apartheid: to help make Zimbabwe a positive, multi-racial and democratic example. 

My book earns us trust from the otherwise paranoid ANC-fighters in Zimbabwe, who are constantly killed by South African commandos. One man we stay with has his best friend blown up by a car bomb outside our door. No one knows more than one or two other ANC members, but we are trusted to smuggle top secret papers down to a guerilla group in Botswana with orders to swallow the papers if we are stopped. We succeed, but the entire group we give the papers to is massacred by South African elite forces a few days after our visit. Instead we try unsuccessfully to sneak across the border into South Africa which has banned me - the highest and only award I have ever been given for my work against apartheid. 

We hitchhike 6000 miles through Eastern Africa and fly directly to San Francisco, where Tony and Howie need our help. Seven of our volunteers from Denmark now settle in San Francisco trying to start a theater like the one the show runs in for 12 years in Copenhagen (the longest running show ever in town). We are so hopeful about success that we self-confident have sent all our money to Africa in order "to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps" which we have brought with us. 

Well, we all end up on welfare and food stamps in the Mission. We have great reviews and good shows, but not enough money. The year is so hard that the group gradually breaks up. I am sent out on the highway with my 2 year old son in order to find a publisher so we can get an advance. Besides, the others know I can always survive as a vagabond with no money. We get $100 for the journey - and return after a couple of months with at least twice that amount. My son is spoiled with ice-cream, love and affection by my friends in all the ghettos where they are not used to seeing a white child. 

Disillusioned I return to Copenhagen with my family to write the American book. With the critique we have received - especially from the left in California - it is obvious that the American book needs to be thought over must better than the European version. Go on a few tours to help start up the show in new countries. In England it ends up as a great scandal. The London City Council has blown it up big as the official opening of their Year against racism and thousands stand in line. The first evening is a great success, but the next evening a group - which people claim is organized by the CIA - invades the Scala Theater and destroys the performance. Fights break out in the audience, my equipment and pictures is smashed and police is called. The next day the group force it's way into the London City Council, which is showered with coffee, and fights break out between Tory's and Labour, who is made responsible for the show. "The (American) Pictures War" continues in England's papers for a while and nobody since dares to touch the show. In Ireland, where people see so much of their own subjugation under British rule in the show, it is on the other hand a huge success. 

...turns out to be not so Orwellian. Amanda Berger - one of the West Coast volunteers - moves to New York to organize the show in the East. The book is not yet finished, but I start in September with the movie in the New York theater Film Forum to great reviews and long lines of people. Afterwards I tour universities. Especially Harvard University puts it on again and again. One law student is so moved that he changes career to work for the poor rather than Wall St. 

In Copenhagen I dissolve the last of the collective and instead make my house open for everybody. A wonderful international atmosphere is created around the show where up to 50 from the USA, Israel, Australia, Africa etc sleep there every night, playing music etc. 

My family moves with me to Boston for a year to help distribute the book after my volunteer on the book project has been killed. In the fall I have my father with me on tour. American audiences are extremely open - and already at my first show my father finds a new wife in M.I.T. After a tour in California I am followed by a groupie all over the country and all kinds of accidents happens - finally ending with burglars breaking into the car stealing for $25.000 equipment including pictures. 

A new set of the show is flown over and the spring tour goes fine - until the groupie shows up again. After a quarrel I end up smashing the car in irritation. With the family I travel to Mexico and Cuba before returning to Denmark. My house meantime has been more and more taken over by Arabs and refugees. During the great national debate on how many refuges Denmark should accept, the media use our wonderful community as an example of how it is possible to create multi-racial harmony. 
During a break in the fall tour I fly to Jamaica to hang out with gangsters and prostitutes in the Kingston ghetto, Trench town

I have an old school friend with me on tour - the first of many Danes to get a free ride through America's best schools and worst slums. Black author James Baldwin has several times tried to get to see the show and finally he succeeds - driving in a snow storm for two hours. He is so enthusiastic about the show that we go out drinking afterwards - only a couple of weeks before his death. Progressive black mayor of Chicago, Harold Washington, organizes my show to heal the chasm between whites and blacks in the city counsel - shortly before he too dies. I am nominated - the first of many times - to the Humanitarian Award by the National Ass. of Campus activities

My family joins me on my spring tour after which we climb Aztec- and Maya ruins in Mexico. In the summer I end up having a record number of 66 Arab, Palestinian and Iranian refugees living with me. They sleep on every inch of my floors - using my bedroom as a prayer room - and I start getting up earlier and earlier in the morning to avoid standing two hours in line for my bath room. The infra structure breaks down, the few remaining Americans flee my house which ends up as a ghetto. After several knife fights - and after some of my visiting black friends from America flee - I decide to throw everybody out and close down the house. 

This year I begin to develop my racism workshop and gradually hope to remove myself from the show in order to teach. I had previously seen it as my highest desire to scrape as much money together for the poor countries and the struggle against apartheid. I now gradually see the purpose of my work as helping American students to overcome their racism - as the best and only way of helping the underclass. In the fall I have the Danish poet Pia Tafdrup with me on tour. She persuades me to start photographing again. Later in the fall my daughter, "Lalou", is born. 

On the spring tour I have another Danish author with me, Palle Petersen, and begin to work with Tony Harris again. The combination of a black and a white man together on stage turns out to be very powerful for the students. Tony verbalizes my thinking much better than myself, and his ability to see the victim in the racist whites and treat them with deep love and affection move both me and the audiences to tears in many schools. So it is a bit unfair that I again am nominated for NACA's Humanitarian award. It is frustrating for Tony to constantly stand in the shadow of me during the show - while in many schools there is no time for his workshop next day. The problem is that we are now so successful that we have shows every single day - and a good deal of driving in between. But Tony is - at least - a good driver (he is too scared to let me drive, he says) and thus he ends up in the good old black role as a chauffeur for another successful white. 

After my yearly show for freshmen in Boston University President Reagan's speech writer calls the school up and demands equal time to "present the other side of the story." 
Unfortunately I have a show in Union College on the great day the Berlin wall comes down, but at least I am able to celebrate its fall - standing on top of it along with thousands of jubilant Germans during the Christmas days - that wall which had not only been a headache for us when we had shows in Berlin, but which symbolized the powerful cold war forces I had been up against with my book. Having stopped the book for several years I now give permission to my old publisher to republish the book all over the world. 

American Pictures had previously had meetings with the leader of Namibia's guerrilla movement Sam Nujorma - the country's president today - and as a result had helped finance a nursing school for SWAPO. Therefore we are glad now to see the result of the anti-apartheid we have been so active in - not least by supporting the very powerful divestment movement on American campuses with the show. Africa's last colony is finally getting independence and I am officially invited to the ceremony by the president. Only to find out that my agent has long ago organized shows for me in Hawaii on the day. 
During the spring tour my 10 year old son comes over to drive with me and Tony. He is more interested in all the video game halls of American universities than in our lectures. After the tour we go to Iceland to celebrate the 20 year anniversary with the friends who once me in on my original trip to America 

Sadam Hussein destroys the fall tour: under the impact of the pending war the number of my engagements drops to half. Instead I get time to photograph the exploding crack scene and to spend more time with the homeless. 

During spring break I fly to Bolivia in order to make a slideshow for CARE. After two weeks driving around with CARE people I am thrilled about the way they give assistance. I later rent a jeep to go around on my own. Unable to speak Spanish I am lucky every time I need help to find some of my previous American audiences who can go with me as interpreters. 

Back in Denmark I make the Bolivia show in 3 weeks and introduce it at our local "Woodstock" music festival. I start touring in Danish schools with much success, but in talks with students they constantly ask about my work in America. I am shocked gradually to learn how much racism has exploded in Danish schools in the ten years since I stopped touring. I decide to make a new Danish version of American Pictures in an effort to counter this racism. 

During the fall tour I have a crew from Danish State TV to follow me around in colleges and ghettos in order to make a TV-program about me. I have told all my homeless New York friends to be ready for the movie, but some of my best friends are being detoxified or are in jail and don't show up at the agreed time. I am most disappointed about the absence of Muhammed, the black panther I had worked with feeding the poor people 20 years earlier. But the TV- crew is even more unreliable since Danish people work after union rules and don't feel like sitting in front of a fire on the street waiting all night. 

New Year's day all hell breaks loose: Gorbachev has just resigned and Gordievskij, the previous top KGB officer in Denmark, sells the news to the Danish boulevard press that I "had been their top agent in the West". Day after day the papers bring up new stories about me. From the first minute I admit that "I was an agent since I had led the KGB believe I was one". However, I had always told all my friends about it openly, so could I really have been a good old- fashioned secret spy? Most people defend me as "having always been hanging out with the wrong people", but for my family it is a hard month with hate mail etc. 

After a week I tell my full story to the press. Since I have all the proof - the legal documents showing how I had stopped the book so that it could not be used by the Russians etc - the public ends up mostly believing me (I think) - or not giving a damn. In the schools I want to tell my "KGB spy tales" to the students, but they keep asking questions about racism. I soon conclude that I have no future in "show business" as "the spy who came in from the cold". 

During spring break I fly to Costa Rica to study the black/white situation there and afterwards to Nicaragua to photograph among the slum-dwellers in Managua. 
During summer I bring my family with me to photograph in Bolivia, where I present a Spanish version of my Bolivia show. 

In November I am close to death. I end up speaking too long in a midnight radio interview in Grand Forks, ND and as a result have to rush full speed in a snowstorm to catch a plane from Minneapolis to California next morning. At 3 in the morning I hit unseen "black ice" and the van rolls over several times and blocks traffic in the opposite lane. Luckily my two passengers are not hurt, but in severe shock. I cancel the rest of the tour - "Why kill myself for apathetic students?" - and go on visits in various ghettos instead. 

During my spring tour the World Trade Center is blown up just as I fly over it. During the next days it seems as the FBI slowly closes in on me until they finally seal off the warehouse I store my show in. Why? In the room next to mine the terrorists had fabricated the bomb. Nice people I had always thought of them! 

In the fall I start a new Danish edition of American Pictures with strong emphasis on Danish racism. Having not shown it for 10 years in Denmark I am surprised to see how it now affects the Danes in totally different way "really hitting home, as the audience says." 

Two young Danish teenagers have just been knifed to death. As a result I organize a huge show on Martin Luther Kings birthday to raise money and support for the "Stop the violence" campaign. More than 2000 show up to a moving day with messages from King's daughter and the singing of "We shall overcome." The rest of the year I am fully booked up in elementary schools using my show to instil awareness of violence in the children. 

On the spring tour I have Anita Roddick - progressive owner of the renown cosmetic chain The Body Shop - with me in the car. I take her around to meet many of the poor people in my book. Having worked extensively in poverty situations in many Third World countries she is shocked seeing the hopelessness in the American ghettos. 

During the fall tour I fly to Haiti to see Clinton's invasion which I strongly support. I decide to move in with one of the poorest families I can find in the violent slum town of City Solei - offering the unemployed family the equivalent per night of what a hotel would cost. I share a bed with 5 people - one of them an emaciated young woman with aids. During the hurricane Gordon I am locked in for two days while water rise to the edge of the bed. Afterwards I walk around - more or less in shock - in knee deep water with dead bodies floating around everywhere. 

After the fall tour I fly to Nepal to do shows for The Body Shop as an outcome of my tour with Anita Roddick. I can't get my equipment through customs and end up photographing in the mountains for CARE instead. Afterwards I fly to Thailand to work in The Golden Triangle for CARE and DANCED. As a result of the Rio Convention Denmark has a huge project here trying so save the rain forest. During the Buddhist holidays I fly to Cambodia to meditate in The Killing Fields on the 20 year anniversary for Phnom Penh's take over by the Khmer Rouge. After spending the morning alone with 8000 sculls I fall from a scooter into a muddy ditch full of excrements. I want to see king Sihanouk in the afternoon, but have no time to wash up. Sihanouk arrives at his palace, I make a sudden jump onto the red carpet through the lines of soldiers, can't get out again - and then to my surprise find Sihanouk smiling to me while forcing me to walk backwards on the red carpet - all the way into the castle which is totally closed off for journalists. At least 500 m I walk like this with Shianook walking toward me - while his entire government with wives in gala bow deeply for us. I spent the whole afternoon with him in the most intimate situations. Obviously - in my smelly, dirty costume - I have ended up to his great amusement as a court jester for him. 

During the spring I have a Norwegian publisher with me on tour. We try to find the mass murderer I had picked up 5 years earlier and who is now an important part of the show. We spend some exciting days tracking down his entire - and equally violent - family in dense fog in the swamps and slowly get entangled in a sad web of generational child abuse followed by violent adult behavior. 

In Denmark I am deeply involved in the Images of Africa festival organized by my wife. I finally finish my new updated edition of American Pictures. For months during the spring I e-mail the text back and forth to almost 20 American professors and editors. Present the show at the AIESEC's world congress in Poland. 

After a long tour in Norway I fly to Nepal with my family to continue the photography I started earlier for Care - with a short stop to see Ghandi's grave in New Delhi. 
 During the fall I have a woman from Danish State Radio in the car to do a program on my relationship to old friends in the ghettos as well as my new mass murder friend, Woody, who is now in prison. 

During the spring tour I go to the former Danish Virgin Islands - partly to see the result of a different type of slavery here - and partly to research my family roots in St. Croix. Also I visit Puerto Rico for the first time. 
Starting after 6,500 screenings to trap down my grueling tours in the US to visit and photograph my friends in the ghettos more. Photographs during Hurricane Mitch in Guatemala for CARE .


As a result of my volunteering in Guatemala, I am headhunted by CARE's Guatemala Director to photograph for CARE in Kosovo and follow the returning Albanians home to their burnt houses and relatives in mass graves. Traveling around with Prince Joachim in Bolivia .


Runs across Denmark  - 1247 km from the Elbe to Skagen and Blåvand to Kalmar - to relieve stress. Fits in the summer my cancer-stricken father, who dies in the fall .


Being invited by Rundetårn to make my first photo exhibition ever with 254 pictures. 60,000 visitors come in two months. That same year, I was invited by IBIS to do an Africa show from Namibia and South Africa, where I participate in the UN Racism Conference. Invited by Sam Nujorma to the presidential palace, but instead moves in with some lesbians in the slums and takes an active part in their fight against the homophobic president - my former ally in the fight against apartheid. Doing homophobia workshop for 100 gays in Windhook. Meets several young people who tell me they would not have been alive if I had not (by matching funds from the EU) built Kwanzu Zul during the freedom struggle. These meetings move me strongly.
The TV station DK4 is making two films about my work in the USA and confront me with the worst Ku Klux Klan leader.


Starting working with the Ku Klux Klan in the US , doing volumes of interviews for an upcoming DVD on racism with members about their frequent childhood abuse. Begins at the request of the Film Institute together with a professional film team to seek support for this DVD for teachers around the world and for a digitization of the show , but is rejected everywhere. I throw myself more actively into the integration struggle in Denmark and am elected to the board of Critical Muslims and Mixeurope
Holds lecture with 
Sherin Khankan on "Islam and racism"

Begins collaboration with Lars von Trier on three films. Doing research on "Dear Wendy" in the US for him and the sequel in "Dogville". My ex-wife dies.



Begins to experiment with the Ku Klux Klan and brings i.a. a black woman with me. Together, we work actively to get the Klan leader released from prison, as I accidentally discover that he is innocent of the charges. However, Amnesty International - my regular organizer of the show in Norway - refuses to support my fight for this prisoner of conscience
After seeing "American Pictures", Lars von Trier is inspired by the themes of internalized oppression and continued slavery among the blacks to make "American Pictures as a Comedy". He therefore leaves "Dear Wendy" to Thomas Winterberg and makes 
"Manderlay" instead .



Invited to exhibit my pictures in the Washington Senate - both in the rotunda and in the Caucus room where the Watergate and McCarthy hearings took place - on the occasion of President Bush signing the law to build a museum for blacks.


I exhibit at the Contemporary Art Museum in Chicago . And in the autumn at the Hayworth Gallery in London and in Milan. French curators discover my pictures as "fine art" and start arranging exhibitions around France. 
America's worst Ku Klux Klan leader with me in the car around to visit my black friends in my long-running attempt to get him out of the clan.



Exhibitions in MulhouseToulouse and Rouen  with great reviews in Le Monde and other media. Photographing the racism of blacks against the pygmies and other marginalized tribes of Uganda.


Exhibitions in Essen, Switzerland, Prague etc. 
The German 
art publisher Steidl publishes my book "Jacob Holdt's America 1970-75" all over the world. 
with a German film photographer around the US for low interviews with the photographers in my books. DR2's TV program about my trip with the Ku Klux Klan leader is broadcast.
For my 60 year birthday I organize the biggest photo exhibition of my life on racism, "The ghetto in our hearts" in Copenhagen.


Exhibitions in Photographer's Gallery in London,
Luxembourg, Amsterdam, Savigiano Italy, Bretagne and Paris, and Gellerup in Denmark.


Huge exhibition in the Danish MOMA Louisiana.
Receives the Danish Government's life long artist pension as well as the Fogtdal prize.



Additional information for my CV:

My image archive with over 10,000 of my images

List of most influential friends in my life

Overview of 550 photos of myself

Overview of 1000 pictures of my wife 1800 pictures of my father (including from my childhood)

Pictures from some of the tours, where I have gradually had 29 Danes with me

Overview and access to my newspaper articles

Overview and access to my reviews in various countries

Interviews with me in the US and Denmark

Overview and access to my TV and radio broadcasts

Including best radio broadcast about my own life in Krunsj

And best TV show with my dad about my rebellious youth

Overview of my memberships and board positions

Overview of my 10,463 ancestors 4000 years back in time

Overview of stretches I have hitchhiked

Overview of stretches I have run

Overview of my main sponsors



Back to Jacob Holdt's homepage 

American Pictures 

Go back 

Copyright © 1997
AMERICAN PICTURES; All rights reserved.