“I am an activist, no artist” – Jacob Holdt

Posted in Books, Photoessay, Photography by Rollfilm on March 16, 2007

“I am an activist, no artist” – Jacob Holdt

Jacob Holdt (born 1947 in Copenhagen, Denmark) is a Danish photographer and author. Arriving in America in the 1970’s, he spent several years hitchhiking across the country. He stayed in over 400 homes, most of them belonging to impovershed minorities, and took thousands of photographs. His photos seek to demonstrate the daily struggle of the American underclass and capture the emotions they experience. He will often juxtapose a poor or homeless person with symbols of “white oppression” or “white power.”


OUT of 100,000 miles of hitchhiking across the United States, out of 3,000 photographs, out of myriad adventures in a five-year odyssey in the 1970’s, a Danish self-styled vagabond named Jacob Holdt has fashioned a visually powerful examination of America’s impoverished.


When his odyssey began, Mr. Holdt was en route from Canada, where he had been working, to South America, which he hoped to visit. But he never made it. His letters home aroused such disbelief that his family sent him a camera, and Mr. Holdt, who was not a photographer, began compiling a record.

In the course of his travels, he was held up at gunpoint, he met a former slave said to be 134 years old, he ran guns for the Indians at Wounded Knee; he attended a Ku Klux Klan meeting where a cross was burned; he stayed with a black woman whose home was firebombed, apparently because of her hospitality, and whose brother burned to death in the attack.

New York Times

Find an online copy of “American Pictures” at Jacob Holdt’s website


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