Reviews and opinions 
the show in the general media 

"... visually powerful....intense impact.....No one can gaze upon his pictures without agreeing that such poverty and despair should not be countenanced." 
New York Times 

 "What makes American Pictures so disturbingly powerful is the cumulative effects of Holdt's photographs combined with his outsider's analysis of the dynamics of poverty and oppression in the U.S." 
Los Angeles Times 

Young boy in Mississippi

 "A masterpiece!.... American Pictures is worse than any horror film - an unsettling mixture of "The Lower Depths," "On the Road" and the "Book of Revelations." 
Few movies have ever been so suffused with lumpen misery....America's preferred watching may well be the self-congratulatory TV shlockumentary "Life Styles of the Rich and Famous", but the mirror is cracked and incomplete without Holdt's appalling "life styles of the destitute and denied." 
The Village Voice 

 "The show is guaranteed to assault the sensibilities of most Americans. However aware they may be about poverty in the U.S., few will be prepared to see the level of squalor, fear, and violence that Holdt's pictures reveal as an everyday reality for a sizable minority of Americans." 
Humanity and Society: Journal of Association for Humanist Sociology 

 "Spellbinding... stunning...... haunting......awe-inspiring. Holdt's analysis of the structures of racism in America is so powerful as to "strain credibility," but his photographs validate his words, "sweeping us up in the process." There is a vividness, a compassion and caring for the individual rarely found among social scientists and journalists. A Hollywood producer could popularize Holdt's story, and, with a big-name star, make it into an instant "schlock-buster." 
National Catholic Reporter 


Rich girl with Cuban maid in Palm Beach

 "American Pictures will haunt you for days after seeing it. It will possess you emotionally and intellectually. Everyone should see it, everyone who cares about the condition of America and Americans. 
It is shocking, frequently violent, and often horrifying. American Pictures strikes you and challenges you to strike back. It demands that you act. Holdt forces the audience not only to examine the presentation but to examine themselves. In this sense, it is an absolute success." 
The Chicago Reader 

 "..... utterly stunning - a comprehensive story of America's racial scene, at once powerful and disturbing. The length of this film only serves to strengthen the far-reaching portrayal of its subject -- poverty in America, its pathos and humor, its irony, its immense impact on the national psyche.... an unusual, powerful document." 
San Francisco Chronicle 

 "To put on the shelf next to Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by Agee and Evans." 
New York Post 

 "The emotional clout of this documentary rests on the adaptability of still photography to the illustration of contrast. It clues the viewer to a more subtle level of contrast: as well: as the psychological and cultural differences that separate the oppressed from the oppressors." 
This is a deeper analysis of the benefits of using still photography in a documentary. 

Racism has come to stay. Therefore, it becomes crucial that we learn to live with it as the disease it is. The Directorate of Immigration is wise to bring Jacob Holdt back and involuntarily commit the Norwegian people on his divan. We know that there is a life-threatening virus in circulation that we are all infected with. There is hardly any better vaccine than an evening with Jacob Holdt. Should anyone oppose, we can just tell them that there is nothing to be afraid of. Remember, they do it in America.
Aftenposten, Norway


 "American Pictures - a series of postcards from hell......embodying the qualities of Rimbaud, Kerouac, and Kierkegaard - is a bizarre, disturbing work whose graphic intensity makes Robert Frank's once-suppressed photos of the thirties (The Americans) seem like images of an upper-class tea party." 
American Film 

 "American Pictures is one of the most incredible chronicles of the modern age you are ever likely to see... beyond a doubt the most devastating and uncompromising indictment of discrimination I have ever encountered." 
Vanguard Press, Vermont 

Linda with oil lamp in bed

 "It is a horrifying, at times touching, portrait of the underclass as well as a journal of his own emotional odyssey." 
The News & Observer, Raleigh, NC 

 "What I saw with Jacob astounded me. I saw communities that had been excluded from society for generations. They were sinking deeper and deeper into poverty and hopelessness under the weight of structural racism." 
Anita Roddick, owner of The Body Shop, writing about her travels with Jacob Holdt  

Review by Christoph Ribbat " Hunger and Closeness: Jacob Holdt"
Steidl's book "Jacob Holdt: United States 1970-75"

 "Not since Jacob Riis' book of social criticism "How the Other Half lives" has the been as powerful a record of American living as American Pictures. Its presentation at the Cannes Film Festival created a sensation." 
The San Francisco Film Festival 

Selected as Outstanding Film of the Year by the London Film Festival and for special presentation in the Smithsonian Institution in Wash. D.C. 


Main categories under "Reviews" menu:

Index of reviews

Interviews with Jacob Holdt   

Reviews of Jacob Holdt's museum exhibitions ....and life

Reviews of the show in the general media   

Reviews of the show in college papers 

Student reactions to the show  

Reviews of the book

Most academic reviews



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