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Suburbia Hardcover – 1 Aug 1999

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 120 pages
  • Publisher: FotoFolio,U.S.; New & Improved. Hardback. No dustjacket. edition (Aug. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1881270408
  • ISBN-13: 978-1881270409
  • Product Dimensions: 26 x 26 x 1.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 629,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Format: Hardcover
In the world of photography books Suburbia is an all time classic. It has been out of print for years and on the rare occasions undamaged original copies appear on the market they sell for large amounts of money. The original was published in 1973 by Rolling Stone magazine’s imprint Straight Arrow and 50,000 copies were produced in three editions.
Put simply Suburbia chronicles the realization of the American Dream, as it was experienced in the nineteen seventies, by the occupants of a newly built housing estate in the Livermore Amador Valley not far from Los Angeles. While others across the world were glued to images of the Apollo 15 the occupants of the estate, perhaps in the tradition of their pioneer ancestors, were setting down to the microcosm of building new and better lives. Owens, son of a mule skinner and a nurse’s aid, made his living as the staff photographer on the Livermore Independent. In a manner that will be familiar to all local newspaper journalists he lived a never ending journey around Livermore, visiting the myriad small but all important happenings that combine to make up a community and provide it with a sense of self.
He became fascinated and began returning to make his own pictures. These, shot on 6x7, form the basis for Suburbia and the $1,500 advance for the book paid the mortgage deposit on a brand new, two-bedroom, Cape Cod-style house on the estate. Each of the original portraits was accompanied by a short statement from it’s subject. “Sunday afternoon we get it together: I cook the steaks and my wife makes the salad” `and “How can I worry about the damned dishes when there are children dying in Vietnam?” are two that sing out.
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By Robin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 14 Feb. 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I think this new edition of Bill Owens wonderful book is slightly better than the original. Having both editions I find that although the halftone screen is less than the original (first edition was over 200, this edition is 170) the printing quality and paper are better, giving the photos more depth. After all these years the images still look fresh and fascinating and the amount of detail the photos contain is amazing. As far as I am aware no other book comes close in capturing the feel of the American suburb of thirty odd years ago.

The book is always favourably mentioned in photo history books as an example of the 'new topography' with photographers like Lewis Baltz, Robert Adams and Stephen Shore and the critics suggest that the citizens of this suburbia lead superficial lives because they live there. But they can't get round the fact these folk, living in Livermore Amador Valley, California, or perhaps three thousand miles away in Levittown, Long Island enjoy the life-style of suburban living and Owens photos capture this feeling so well.

On the visual strength of 'Suburbia' I bought another book of Bill Owens photos, 'Working: I do it for the money', published in 1977, a super collection of photos showing Americans at work and Like 'Suburbia' it includes many observations from those in the photos. Well worth searching out for.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
great book.
great pics
simple yet vast.
full of images
full of detail
is tastefull
is for the once that like photography
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9211f564) out of 5 stars 10 reviews
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9221d624) out of 5 stars Suburbia Lives On! 13 Jan. 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
It's long overdue that this 1972 rare cult classic book was republished. In the early 70s, photographer Owens acted as an anthropologist objectively documenting suburban inhabitants, their native environs, and their daily rituals. By pairing the images with quotes made by the subjects, Owens has created a hilarious and absurd account of life in the suburbs. Tupperware parties, backyard barbecues, and going to the hairdresser have never been so riveting! You must own this book!
26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9233cb04) out of 5 stars 1999 Edition Lives Up to Its Claim of "New & Improved" 16 April 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The 1973 original edition, which contained only black-and-white photos, may not have been to everyone's taste. I went to the library and compared the "NEW & IMPROVED" (as the red 8-pointed star on the cover proclaims) 1999 edition with the old. The new edition is a lot better. First, some photos that did not have much impact for me (e.g., a shot of adults kissing on Halloween) have been deleted. Second, 18 pages of color photos (some of which have the gaudy color combinations typical of the 1970s) and a number of B&W photos were added. Third, the order of photos is more meaningful; for example, "I believe in women's liberation" was the second photo in the old edition but is on page 21 in the new edition (opposite a depiction of two chairs and a TV). Fourth, Owen's editor Shimshak has added captions for photos that previously had none (e.g., on pages 16-17). Finally, there is a new introduction by journalist David Halberstam.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x924b054c) out of 5 stars Welcome Back , Suburbia! 23 Mar. 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm delighted to see this book available again. Last year I spent $100 for a copy (well worth it!) because it was out of print. I plan to buy the new version for the additional pictures promised. I've been fascinated with this book since I was a kid (and his other out-of-print books). I have too much to say about Bill Owens' work and not nearly enough room! I love "Suburbia" and would highly recommend it to anyone who loves to study people just "doing their thing".
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x923e2ed0) out of 5 stars Looking through the picture window. 14 Feb. 2003
By Robin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I think this new edition of Bill Owens wonderful book is slightly better than the original. Having both editions I find that although the halftone screen is less than the original (first edition was over 200, this edition is 170) the printing quality and paper are better, giving the photos more depth. After all these years the images still look fresh and fascinating and the amount of detail the photos contain is amazing. As far as I am aware no other book comes close in capturing the feel of the American suburb of thirty odd years ago.

The book is always favourably mentioned in photo history books as an example of the 'new topography' with photographers like Lewis Baltz, Robert Adams and Stephen Shore and the critics suggest that the citizens of this suburbia lead superficial lives because they live there. But they can't get round the fact these folk, living in Livermore Amador Valley, California, or perhaps three thousand miles away in Levittown, Long Island enjoy the life-style of suburban living and Owens photos capture this feeling so well.

On the visual strength of 'Suburbia' I bought another book of Bill Owens photos, 'Working: I do it for the money', published in 1977, a super collection of photos showing Americans at work and like 'Suburbia' it includes many observations from those in the photos. Well worth searching out for.

***FOR AN INSIDE LOOK click 'customer images' under the cover.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92615ac8) out of 5 stars Suburbia, along with Leisure and Working, all by Bill Owens, make a fine trilogy 12 Oct. 2014
By Tom Brody - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
BILL OWENS SUBURBIA is a 120-page hardcover medium format (26 cm X 26 cm) book, consisting mainly of black and white photographs, with a nice selection of color photos. The color photos are on pages 13, 14, 27, 28, 43, 44, 59, 60, 75 to 78, 91 to 94, 107, and 108. The pictures show white middle class families, posing with their luxury items and their tacky living room decor. The luxury items take the form of boats, motorcycles, and house trailers. The tacky decor is generally in the worst of taste, taking the form, for example of bad reproductions of Greek statues. Most of the photos come with an inscription printed right below the picture. The inscriptions were all written by the subjects of the pictures. Some of them display a wry form of unintended humor

The photos are all from the area of Livermore, California. I grew up in nearby San Leandro, in a housing development called Marina Faire. Presently, I have relatives in a housing development in Elk Grove. Thus, I have first-hand knowledge of families and their accoutrements, of the same type shown in BILL OWENS SUBURBIA. This book is not quite as good as WORKING by Bill Owens, or LEISURE by Bill Owens. I recommend LEISURE over SUBURBIA.

The following are my favorites from BILL OWENS SUBURBIA (keep in mind, that I much prefer Mr. Owens' book, LEISURE:

Page 12. This shows a husband in a white T-shirt and wife in nice casual house-clothes, with a tall bouffant. In the background is a rental moving van. The man and woman both touch the edge of a cardboard box filled with clothes. The inscription reads, "We moved up to a nicer house. We thought we'd do better, but the real estate man got us. Closing costs were supposed to be $295 but they turned out to be $750." Please note that the predicament of this couple is best illustrated by a movie called, NO DOWN PAYMENT, featuring Joan Woodward and Tony Randall. Please see my Amazon.com review of NO DOWN PAYMENT. This movie is an excellent accompaniment to BILL OWENS SUBURBIA.

Page 30 shows a man in his garage, which he has converted to a tool shop for woodworking. (My father did the same thing with his garage, in San Leandro, CA.) The man is kneeling in a lawn of sawdust which covers part of the garage floor. The man holds slats of wood, which he is assembling into some type of furnishing The quality of this photograph is excellent and the lighting is even throughout (there are no areas inside the garage that are plunged in darkness). The inscription reads, "The California garage today, out of necessity, requires that you move the cars out and the tools in."

Page 42. This shows a lady cleaning her bathroom floor. She holds a sponge mop. The floor is spic and span, apparently because she's already done all of the cleaning. The wallpaper features hundreds of large prints of flowers. By the bathroom sink is a basket filled with artificial flowers. The quote reads, "I put if off until I can't stand it anymore. The rottenest job in the whole house is cleaning the bathroom."

Page 43. The next photo, shown on page 43, is from the same bathroom, as is evident from the flower prints on the wall, except that page 43 is in color. The photo shows the toilet, and the tacky decor situated on top of the toilet tank cover. The toiled seat is bright red. The porcelain cover supports a phony Greek statue and an artificial flower. The reader will be struck by the extreme tackiness of the decor. I have seen the same tackiness of decor in California tract housing middle class family households.

Page 45 shows a blond girl, about 3 years old. Apparently, the girl is from a different family (not from the tacky lady's family). The girl sits on her bed with messy hair. The floor is extraordinarily messy, and the floor is barely visible. On the floor are wooden blocks, beach thongs, a kids' science book, a striped pillow, a toy airplane, and several small boxes filled with unidentifiable accoutrements of childhood. The inscription reads, "I wanted Christina to learn some responsibility for cleaning her room, but it didn't work."

Page 63 shows an older man in his hobby den, used for storing his rock collection. The man is in good shape. He is smiling and not wrinkled. He is partly bald. The man's right hand is draped over his wife's shoulder. The wife is seated and the man is standing. The wife is not in good shape. The years have not been kind to her. She is obese and her face is bloated and sagging. The woman is not smiling, but she appears content. Behind the couple, and mounted on the wall, are about ten photographs of naked women. Apparently, they were clipped out of Playboy Magazine. The inscription reads, "We've been collecting rocks since 1958. Its enjoyable to get out into the open and hunt for rocks, and its really fun to cut open a rock and to find a gem inside." (I am not sure if the wife gets as excited about rocks as the man. In my opinion, for couples who are into off-beat hobbies, I suggest that birdwatching is a better fit for both husband and wife, than rock collecting.)
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