American Pictures 1972—1990.
Photographs by Nathan Benn.
powerHouse Books, New York, 2013. 168 pp., illustrations throughout, 12¼x11¼".
As America huffed its way to the end of the ’70s, a change more profound than any one cultural trope’s evolutionary death knell was taking place. Perceptively distilled in a new volume of photographs by longtime National Geographic shooter Nathan Benn, Kodachrome Memory: American Pictures 1972—1990 depicts an America of boisterous legend and vibrant regionalism, teetering on the cusp of the coming Information Age’s great cultural flattening.
Nathan Benn embraced color photography before it was considered an acceptable medium for serious documentary expression, traveling globally for National Geographic magazine for two decades. In revisiting his archive of almost half a million images, and editing his photographs with a 21st-century perspective, he discovered hundreds of unpublished American pictures that appeared inconsequential to editors of the 1970s and 1980s, but now resonate—in beautiful Kodachrome color—with empathic perspectives on everyday life in forgotten neighborhoods.
Kodachrome Memory exemplifies forthright storytelling about everyday people and vernacular spaces. The photographs, organized by geographic and cultural affinities (North East, Heartland, Pittsburgh, and Florida), delight with poetic happenstance, melancholy framing, and wistful abandon. The past, an era heavily eulogized, comes alive again in its deliciously homely demeanor, and glorious Kodachrome hues. Yes, this is your father’s America. An essay by scholar Paul M. Farber contextualizes the creation and selection of these images, offering a fresh perspective about color photography on the eve of the digital revolution.