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The Rockabillies (Center Books on American Places) [Hardcover]

Jennifer Greenburg
1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: 35.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

12 Mar 2010 Center Books on American Places
Elvis Presley. Pompadours. Black-and-white creeper shoes. Cuffed jeans. And a little bit of James Dean rebellion. These are just some of the ingredients of the modern Rockabilly style. Despite being generations removed from the original Rockabillies of the 1950s, today's Rockabilly subculture has adopted the look - the slicked-back hair or the Bettie Page bangs - and the sound - from Carl Perkins to Buddy Holly - of mid-twentieth-century American youth culture. In "The Rockabillies", photographer Jennifer Greenburg offers a visual tour of a unique global subculture and her own place within it. The individuals her photographs capture are examples of the Rockabilly scene, who have fully embraced the aesthetic values of the 1950s. What intrigues Greenburg is that these contemporary Rockabillies choose to overlook the social and political realities of the time period they adore and emulate. The subculture today has become a hybrid of texts and images - frequently taken out of context - from an era that saw race riots, cultural upheaval, and little hope for middle-class advancement. Few, if any, members of the Rockabilly culture would actually want to live in the postwar era; rather, the imagery and ideals have been adapted to serve as a wistful interpretation of that time.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press (12 Mar 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1930066996
  • ISBN-13: 978-1930066991
  • Product Dimensions: 25.9 x 28.4 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,487,150 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Jennifer Greenburg's carefully crafted environmental portraits perfectly reflect the attention to detail and idealism of her subjects' rockabilly lifestyle. By making photographs worthy of a glossy fashion magazine, Greenburg places the rockabilly's nostalgia in a contemporary context, revealing a tension between the traditionalism and rebelliousness of their subculture."--Karen Irvine, associate curator, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago

About the Author

Jennifer Greenburg completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and received her MFA from the University of Chicago. Her work is featured in the collections of the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago and the Rose Gallery in California, among others.

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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Rockabillies Book Review 18 Mar 2010
I was there at the start of the London Rockabilly scene back in the mid seventies and am still involved today. I'd just like to say, don't be fooled by the cover of this book....save your money and spend it on something worth while.Totally disappointed with the content.
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Amazon.com: 2.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Countering Disillusionment with Style 15 July 2010
By Ann Wiens - Published on Amazon.com
In this book of carefully composed, color-saturated photographs--nearly all of them portraits--Jennifer Greenburg offers entry into the rockabilly subculture of which she is both participant and observer. Taken between 2001 and 2009, mostly in the Chicago area (where Greenburg, who teaches photography at Columbia College Chicago, lives), the photos initially appear to have been shot about 50 years earlier.

In the book's introduction, Greenburg explains how her involvement in the close-knit rockabilly community initially evolved from a shared aesthetic. That particular aesthetic--with its poodles and pompadours; crinolines and credenzas; dinette sets, tiki bars, and pin curls--is emblematic of an era of optimism, a fictional America of happy suburban families with stylish cars, bright-eyed children, and easy lives. The craving for this American dream is at the subculture's center: the rockabillies, Greenburg notes, were "actively pursuing a 1950s lifestyle of marrying young, moving to the suburbs, and having children. They did not care much for the ins and outs of politics... and they weren't losing sleep over the economy, AIDS, or Roe v. Wade." She found "a subculture of people who had mostly turned away from the horrors of contemporary American culture to focus on family, friends, music, and vintage Americana."

This escapism may seem irresponsibly nave on a level, but Greenburg's subjects knowingly pick and choose the elements that define their subculture. They create a fantasy lifestyle modeled on fictionalized depictions of an ideal from an era before most of them were born--with total self-awareness. As Greenburg notes, her interest in this vision of the past allows her "to be the architect of a dream world constructed entirely in my own imagination."

In her insightful contribution to the book, "The Culture, Style, and Art of the Rockabillies," essayist Audrey Michelle Mast contextualizes these people's commitment "not just as an aesthetic, but as an identity." Mast invokes Jean Baudrillard's concept of the simulacrum to explain the nature of this lifestyle, in which the invented or created lifestyle is "neither a likeness nor a copy of historical reality," but a newly invented truth, more real than that which inspired it.

Greenburg recalls her own disillusionment with Bush-era America; how she, and other members of the rockabilly subculture, felt "defeated and hopeless" as the nation entered a period of "mediocrity and fundamentalism." Mast points out that rockabilly culture, neither anti-establishment nor fundamentalist, is "an inward-looking" version of conservatism. Incorporating a strong shared aesthetic to identify one another, the rockabillies seek to build a like-minded community while leaving the rest of the world alone. Greenburg's book gives a fascinating glimpse into their world.
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointing 18 July 2011
By Gerard Guidoni - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The rockabilly scene is vibrant and colorful. The music, cars, the fashions and the people who are very into it and are very passionate about it. In fact, those are the very people depicted in this book. However, none of the joy and fun of the scene is communicated in these photos. The subjects are still, lifeless and without any joy...or any emotion or personality at all, really. The scenes are meticulously set, the subjects painstakingly groomed and posed. They could be mannequens on a set. The book shows none of the fun I've seen in folks who are modern rockabilly fans and none of the persnality - and there certainly are some characters in the scene!
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Have to give it 2.5 3 Feb 2014
By Philip - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The book itself is nice, but I have to laugh at the author for thinking she is "in" the scene. She clearly is NOT.
Maybe I will have to publish my works over the last 14 years into a coffee table book on the Real Rockabilly lifystyle.
9 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not worth the Money 9 Jan 2011
By Gigi7 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A dissapointing book overall.
The photography is boring and generic.
I thought the photos would be much more interesting and more represenative of the rockabilly scene with a little more info on the subjects photographed. It really isnt worth 50 dollars or even 38 wich is what I paid for it. The author makes a good go at it but it falls short in representation and falls extremely short in creativity.I wanted to love this book but for me it was dssapointing. For someone else it might be Great. To each there own. I dont recomend buying this book.
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