Book Review: American Studies

An honest and sympathetic look at everywhere

An impressive book with 115 photos of American commonplace which Jim Dow took over the last forty years. I have his previous book: Marking the Land: Jim Dow in North Dakota, which I thought was a beautiful photographic overview of North Dakota and this latest one doesn't disappoint.

The photos of what can be seen off the Interstate are comparable to the work of Stephen Shore, Jeff Brouws, Michael Eastman and David Graham. Dow, like them, focuses on the everyday to be seen in cities and small towns across the country though he, nicely, covers the interiors of restaurants, barber shops, stores and bars as well. Some of the detail in these interiors really pulls you into the frame. I thought this was a strong point of his North Dakota book.

Because the photos stretch over a number of years the first twenty-eight are mono then on page forty-two a mono photo of a billiard parlor, from 1977, is repeated on the opposite page but in color. The remaining pages are all color. Most of the shots are straight on because the compositions offer enough detail and don't need any extra visual input with unnecessary photo techniques. The only weak photos, in my view, are the nineteen close-ups of hand painted signs on the walls of buildings, they look crudely amateurish and perhaps would have looked best four to a page rather than the large, one to a page.

This is an impressively big book in the classic photo book style with nearly all the images large and one to a page, generous margins and printed on matt art paper with a 175 screen. A slight bit of unneeded designer whimsy has all the captions turned sideways on the outer edge of each left and right page. Dow writes an interesting illustrated sixteen page essay as an Afterword on the back pages.

'American studies' is an excellent addition to my commonplace photobook library.

American Studies is available at Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP | CN) and Book Depository

American Studies - 12
Contents spread.

American Studies - 01

American Studies - 02

American Studies - 03
The same photo in mono and color. To ease the reader from mono photo pages into the color ones?

American Studies - 04

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Dow's previous book. A loving photo journey through ND.

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