Book Review: Visions of America: Photographing Democracy by Joseph Sohm

visionsofamerica

Visions of America addresses a single question: How do you photograph democracy? After all, democracy is an “idea,” and not something one can easily wrap one’s lens around. But photographing democracy is indeed what Joseph Sohm has done in this epic journey across the fifty states. To capture this country’s incredible diversity, Sohm framed his national work as George Seurat might a pointillist painting. With each photograph, an individual dot was applied to his American canvas. Spanning three decades, tens of thousands of images were assembled in what becomes a compelling mosaic. With a foreword by legendary travel writer, Paul Theroux, Visions of America is a work of historic value and significance.

visions of america2I receive books for review every week, and yet no book has ever caused as much excitement in every member of the family as Joseph Sohm’s Visions of America has. From my husband, Kevin, down to my youngest child, Josiah (who is 7), we have all been paging through this book and drinking in the gorgeous photographs of our country. The economy, the politics as usual, the war that goes on and on and on – all of these things could make me become cynical and bitter and apathetic about this country we live in. But as I have looked at these photos and read the thoughts behind them, I can’t help but feel a swell of patriotism. I know, I know – that sounds cheesy, but it’s how this book makes me feel – makes my whole family feel.

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Visions of America is premised on a single question – “how do you photograph Democracy?” (After all, it’s an idea!) My answer unfolds over 1300 images and 21 essays that catapult you on an unforgettable journey across the fifty states.

visions of america5This book is Sohm’s labor of love, encompassing thirty years of his life’s work. Sohm also wrote A Photo Symphony Concert for America , with an original score composed by Grammy-award winner Roger Kellaway, and narration read by Clint Eastwood.

visions of america3The photos in this post are just a minuscule sample of the amazing artwork in this book. First of all, the book is absolutely huge – and it is completely full of photographs. If you want to see more examples, and watch videos from the symphonic multi-media production, head over to the Visions of America website.

As a homeschooling mother, this is the kind of book I want in our home library. I envision many hours of perusing the pages of this book and discussing the images it contains. I am so grateful to Lisa Rose at Online Publicist for connecting me with this review copy.

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About the author: Joseph Sohm is an American history teacher turned photo-historian. Over 30 years, he has traveled the fifty states and across the world, photographing people, celebrations, monuments, sports, cities, small towns and presidential campaigns. His photos have been published more than 50,000 times in such publications as National Geographic, Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and in hundreds of textbooks, as well as on media including CNN, ABC, The History Channel and MSNBC.

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17 Responses to Book Review: Visions of America: Photographing Democracy by Joseph Sohm

  1. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread
    says:

    Man, you have all the luck with review copies! What a wonderful opportunity, to get something that is not only entertaining for you, but educational for your kids. I would LOVE to see this book in person! It’s these kinds of works that one needs to look at now and again to restore our faith in this great country we live in!
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters (audio) =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Sandy – I know – this is such a gorgeous book – I’m very fortunate!

  2. stacybuckeye says:

    I have to have this book! The few photos you showed are just gorgeous. Thanks for the heads up :)

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Stacy – you’re welcome – it would be a wonderful addition to any home library!

  3. Margot says:

    Wonderful review. I have the book too and I agree with you and your family. Mine too. The book has made us feel so proud to be an American.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Margot – It’s definitely a book to share with your family!

  4. Belle
    Twitter: msbookish
    says:

    This sounds like a gorgeous book – and the idea is so intriguing. How does one photograph democracy? Lovely!
    .-= Belle´s last blog ..Review: The Strain, by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan =-.

  5. joseph sohm says:

    Hi Carrie – this is my first REVIEW on this book, or any book for that matter as it’s my first. I so appreciate you and your readers comments. It warms my heart. After 1000 nights in a Motel 6 (or equivalent) it’s so rewarding to see the book come into reality.

    While the pictures are clearly the “eye candy” – I hope your readers have a chance to delve into the essays, which I think will make the pix seem all the prettier. Also, there is an original lyric written by Oscar-winning Alan and Marilyn Bergman called “We the People” that is a song from our concert. They write for Barbra Streisand, who also is a proud owner of the book, as is Clint Eastwood.

    We do live in a stunning nation of brilliant ideas, icons and we are graced with images. Thanks for focusing on my book. Warm regards, Joe Sohm (the author)

    p.s. By early next week, our BOOK PREVIEW – a highly produced video interview will be online.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Joe – Thanks so much for leaving a note! I hope your book is received with open arms – it’s very deserving of all the publicity it’s getting.

  6. Debbie
    Twitter: debworldofbooks
    says:

    I also received this book to be reviewed. I haven’t had a chance to read any of the essays yet but both my husband and I were blown away by the photos.
    .-= Debbie´s last blog ..Waiting on Wednesday July 29 =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Debbie – I am glad so many people will be putting the word out about this book!

  7. Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit)
    Twitter: SavvyVerseWit
    says:

    I received this book as well and hope to review soon. I just love how hefty it is. This is my new coffee table book!
    .-= Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit)´s last blog ..Susan Helene Gottfried Reveals her Past and Inspiration =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Serena – it’s a perfect coffee table book – stimulates conversation!

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  9. Dawn - She is Too Fond of Books
    Twitter: toofondofbooks
    says:

    Gorgeous photos! and it sounds like the essays are well-written and thought-provoking. Thanks so much for this excellent review; VISIONS OF AMERICA would make a nice gift for “the person who has everything”, wouldn’t it?
    .-= Dawn – She is Too Fond of Books´s last blog ..Now hear this! Thoughts on *Law of Connection* audiobook by Michael Losier (guest post) =-.