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Review of new show 

Rochester University 
[digital collegian] 

Danish vagabond
captures images of
American oppression 


Tuesday, Nov. 12, 1996 

Collegian Arts Writer


Three-thousand pictures times 1000 words equals infinitely more than any form of language. 
Last night at Schwab Auditorium, Danish vagabond Jacob Holdt proved this in more than just visual ways to a full house with his show "American Pictures," presented by the Office of Residence Life. 

For five years Holdt hitch-hiked around the United States photographing the American underclass, selling his blood for money, living in hundreds of American homes and capturing a story unheard by many. 

"It is not so much my words that are important," Holdt said before his show began. "We all have a lot of pain inside of us -- a lot of scars -- we know that if we don't work them out we end up reenacting them." 
Holdt began taking pictures in America in the early 1970s and is still taking them today. He said he has presented his show more than 1000 times in Europe and at 300 universities in the United States. 

"Photography is maybe one of the truest forms of media," said Angela Rohacek (sophomore-communication disorders), who attended the show. In his introductory remarks, Holdt told the audience his show is not entertainment -- it is oppression. "It is an attempt to try to oppress you, but remember you are in the company of many fellow oppressed people," Holdt said. 

Nonetheless, an underlying theme in "American Pictures" is love and the importance of state of mind. 
"I hope (the show) will help increase the understanding of people's background," Holdt said. "I want students to work on their racism, and generally they do after they see this." 
In the first part of the show Holdt explored the South, inundating viewers with images of a tainted, tortured past and startling depictions of a present caught in a cycle of displaced anger. 

With photographs consistently on the screen between words, music and Holdt's narration, viewers saw, for example, a young African-American child peering through a torn screen window while a chubby, old man in a picture opposite the screen had a gentle smile even though he was dressed in his white Ku Klux Klan robe. "I find the Ku Klux Klan and the Nazis some of the most important and obvious groups to embrace and help out of their anger -- instead we hate them," Holdt said, while pictures of angry people protesting in the streets covered the screen. 

After a brief intermission, the show proceeded with images of the North and a section called "The Ghetto in our Minds," continuing to highlight "the oppression people go through to become oppressors." "I guess I'm sort of shocked," said Stacey Shields (sophomore-biobehavorial health). "I'm surprised that it's my nation." Darren Gouran (junior-sociology) was also surprised by the show. "I really had no idea what to expect," he said. "It's amazing -- stunning. I walked in and I was just like, wow, what did I walk into?" 

Holdt said racism in Europe is increasing, such as between Catholics and Protestants. Ten years ago, however, Holdt said he would never have thought racism and social inequality would be worse globally today because there used to be more enthusiasm and hope for the future. "I don't really feel guilty but I don't feel like I'm helping," Shields said. "I don't know exactly what to do -- where to start." Despite the horror found through his lens, Holdt said he fell in love with the Americans he met. "I have a deep faith in the goodness of people," Holdt said. 

Copyright 1996, Collegian Inc., Last Updated - 11/11/96 9:16:17 PM 

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American Pictures - reviews