A delightful slice of pure Americana served up in photo book format. Nathan Benn worked for the National Geographic for many years and the photos here reflect the magazine's house style: technically perfect photos that say something to the reader. Fortunately this means that the more personal style of photography seen in so many art photo books over the last four decades isn't much in evidence here.
The ninety-four photos in the book have been selected from about 350,000 Kodachromes that Benn had put in storage nearly twenty years ago. The great thing about the film was that it didn't fade and the colors in these photos sing out with vibrancy and clarity as if they had been processed yesterday. The pages are in four sections: North East; Heartland; Pittsburgh; Florida, each divided by a spread of life size Kodachrome slides (rather interestingly some of these are the wrong way round). All the images are a slice of life between 1972 and 1990. Almost everyday scenes though how often would you see a farrier or a bunch of Klansmen burning a cross, even back then. There is mixture of exterior and interior and a portrait or two. Virtually every one has beautiful framing and that helps to pull you into the composition.
Excellent though the book is it has a slight flaw because of a lack of captions. The only captions name the place and date (and oddly set sideways in the left and right margins instead of centered under each photo) but several of them made me ask: what's going on here. Two men on page 129 both have two hats on, the front of the book essays says they are seasonal sugar-cane harvesters about to leave Miami International Airport but nothing about the two hats. Page 108 shows a selection of flat metal discs and squares of material laying on a wide ledge, who knows what they are but if the photo had appeared in the Geographic a caption would have revealed exactly what they were. An explanation, at least for some of the photos, would have made the book complete for me.
The design and printing are first class, using a 250 screen brings out so much of the detail in these photos and as they were all taken by one person there is a constant color quality throughout the book. Overall a fascinating look
*Since I wrote this review Nathan Benn has kindly explained what the photo on 108 is about, please click the Comment below.