Material World: A Global Family Portrait

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Overview

In an unprecedented effort, sixteen of the world’s foremost photographers traveled to thirty nations around the globe to live for a week with families that were statistically average for that nation. At the end of each visit, photographer and family collaborated on a remarkable portrait of the family members outside their home, surrounded by all of their possessions—a few jars and jugs for some, an explosion of electronic gadgetry for others. Vividly portraying the look and feel of the human condition everywhere ...

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Overview

In an unprecedented effort, sixteen of the world’s foremost photographers traveled to thirty nations around the globe to live for a week with families that were statistically average for that nation. At the end of each visit, photographer and family collaborated on a remarkable portrait of the family members outside their home, surrounded by all of their possessions—a few jars and jugs for some, an explosion of electronic gadgetry for others. Vividly portraying the look and feel of the human condition everywhere on Earth, this internationally acclaimed bestseller puts a human face on the issues of population, environment, social justice, and consumption as it illuminates the crucial question facing our species today: Can all six billion of us have all the things we want?

Menzel photographed average families in each of 30 nations, posed with their possessions gathered around them. As they depict the meaning of material wealth around the world, these dramatic photos ask a fundamental question: Can all five billion of us have everything we want? "A record of striking value."--Scientific American. 359 color photos.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Although Material World might appear to fall into the genre epitomized by Edward Steichen's The Family of Man (1955), the book truly defies facile classification; it seems at once art, photojournalism, human geography, and visual anthropology. It is a remarkable and captivating coupling of photographic art with economic and demographic statistics. Very largely the work of 16 photographers, including Menzel, the book is most outstanding in its color photographic portraits of 30 families with their material possessions arrayed nearby. Each family represents one of 30 different countries-some poor, some rich-and each approximates what World Bank and UN statisticians deemed to be "average" for its country. Tables associated with the photographs provide statistical portraits of the families and their nations; photographers' notes on their specific projects enlighten the viewer. Though the format allows superficial browsing, the combination of detailed photographic presentations of material goods with the commentaries and statistics invites careful reading and cross-cultural comparison. Readers should find the comparison worth making. Strongly recommended for all libraries. [A CD-ROM of the same title is available; for more information, see p. 21.-Ed.]-James D. Haug, East Carolina Univ. Lib., Greenville, N.C.
School Library Journal
YA-A fascinating look at the material possessions of families throughout the world. These people have been determined ``average'' for their countries and have agreed to have photographers move the contents of their houses outside in order to create visible representations of their relative standards of living. The dirt house and few possessions of Mali residents contrast with the 4 cars, 45-foot long sofa, and 12+ oriental carpets lined up outside the luxury home of a family from Kuwait. Each chapter includes the original spread of possessions, statistics about each family and country, as well as further pictures of daily life and some observations by the photographer. Interspersed among the chapters, which are divided by region, are pictorial representations of such interesting comparisons as televisions, meals, and toilets. Almost all of the pictures are in full color. Menzel hoped this would be ``a unique tool for grasping cross-cultural realities.'' It is that and much more.-Susan H. Woodcock, King's Park Library, Burke, VA
Booknews
A fascinating project--sponsored by a number of international organizations--resulting in this richly intriguing book (it will get well-deserved promotion and distribution via all sorts of media). Sixteen photographers traveled to 30 nations to live for a week with families that are "statistically average" for that nation. At the end of each visit, photographer and subjects collaborated on a portrait of the family, outside of its home, surrounded by all of its material possessions--a few jars and jugs for some, an abundance of electronic gadgetry for others. The 360 color photos are accompanied by information about the standard of living in each country, notes by the photographers about their experiences, and profiles of family members and their lives. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780871564306
  • Publisher: Sierra Club Books
  • Publication date: 10/28/1995
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 116,975
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 12.00 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Menzel has photographed stories for National Geographic, Paris Match, Stern, The New York Times Magazine, and Time. He lives in Napa, California. Charles C. Mann is a contributing editor of Atlantic Monthly. He has covered scientific and environmental issues for The New York Times Magazine and other publications. He lives in New York City.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 10, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Love this book.

    I am looking forward to sharing this book with my family. It really helps put life in perspective. I keep imagining what the photo would look like if I were to move all my belongings out side my home.

    Not only does the book send a powerful message but it does so with such bueatiful images. This is a really bueatiful book that you will enjoy sharing with family and friends. I love how the book provides a glimpse into other cultures and families.

    We selected this book and hungry planet for a book discussion group which fit In well following a sesson global warming topics and this was a very good fit. I think this would be a great book donate to a library, school or church library.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2003

    THIS BOOK WAS GREAT BOOK TO READ AND LEARN FROM

    I really enjoy everything about it. Thank you.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2000

    Everyone Should Own a Copy of This Book

    This book should sit on everyones reference shelf. It illustrates both the simplicities and excentricities of life. I admire most, the families with the fewest possessions. Shouldn't we all live as simply? I would recommend this book for anyone, but especially for those whose lives are feeling cluttered. And who in America today doesn't feel this way? It helps to illustrate the true difference between 'wants' and 'needs', and might just stop you from buying another neat kitchen gadget or that third car.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews

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