What Matters: The World's Preeminent Photojournalists and Thinkers Depict Essential Issues of Our Time

Overview

For more than a century, photography has revealed truths, exposed lies, advanced the public discourse, and inspired people to demand change. Socially conscious pioneers with cameras transformed the world—and that legacy lives on in this eye-opening, thought-provoking, and (we hope) action-inducing book. Like Jacob Riis’s How the Other Half Lives, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, and Jonathan Schell’s The Fate of the Earth before it, we believe that What Matters will fundamentally ...
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Overview

For more than a century, photography has revealed truths, exposed lies, advanced the public discourse, and inspired people to demand change. Socially conscious pioneers with cameras transformed the world—and that legacy lives on in this eye-opening, thought-provoking, and (we hope) action-inducing book. Like Jacob Riis’s How the Other Half Lives, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, and Jonathan Schell’s The Fate of the Earth before it, we believe that What Matters will fundamentally alter the way we see and understand the human race and our planet.
What Matters asks: What are the essential issues of our time? What are the pictures that will spark public outrage and spur reform? The answer appears in 18 powerful, page-turning stories by the foremost photojournalists of our age, edited by The New York Times best-selling author/editor David Elliot Cohen (A Day in the Life and America 24/7 series), and featuring trenchant commentary from well-recognized experts and thinkers in appropriate fields. Photographer Gary Braasch and climate-change guru Bill McKibben provide “A Global Warming Travelogue” that takes us from ice caves in Antarctica to smoke-spewing coal plants in Beijing. Brent Stirton and Peter A. Glick examine a “Thirsty World,” chronicling the daily search for clean water in non-developed countries. James Nachtwey and bestselling poverty expert Jeffrey D. Sachs look at the causes of, and cures for, global poverty in “The Bottom Billion.” Stephanie Sinclair and Judith Bruce present the preteen brides of Afghanistan, Nepal, and Ethiopia.
Sometimes the juxtaposition of photographs can be startling: “Shop ‘til We Drop,” Lauren Greenfield’s images of upscale consumer culture, starkly contrast with Shehzad Noorani’s “Children of the Black Dust”—child laborers in Bangladesh, their faces blackened with carbon dust from recycled batteries.
The combination of compelling photographs and insightful writing make this a highly relevant, widely discussed book bound to appeal to anyone concerned about the crucial issues shaping our world. What Matters is, in effect, a 336-page illustrated letter to the next American president about the issues that count. It will inspire readers to do their part—however small—to make a difference: to help, the volume includes extensive “What You Can Do” sections with a menu of web links and effective actions readers can take now. This year give What Matters.
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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
Hard to see, impossible to turn away
Issues and images combine in 'What Matters,' a powerful and passionate new book
By Michael Zajakowski
September 6, 2008

Great documentary photojournalism, squeezed out of mainstream newspapers and magazines in an age of shrinking column inches, has had a hard time gaining traction in other venues. Although it has found new life on web sites and in books, the age of the topical visual long form is in remission.

But nobody has told the 18 photographers in "What Matters: The World's Preeminent Photojournalists and Thinkers Depict Essential Issues of Our Time."

These are photo essays by some of today's best photojournalists following the great tradition begun over a hundred years ago with the exposés of New York tenement life by Jacob Riis. Through the doggedness of these photographers - who are clearly committed to stirring us out of complacency - all the power and passion of the medium is evident in this book.

David Elliot Cohen, who co-created the famous "Day in the Life" series of photojournalism books, had a keen eye in selecting the photo essays and coupling each with cogent commentary from writers such as Samantha Power, professor at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government; Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of the Earth Institute and Columbia University professor; and Elizabeth C. Economy, director for Asian Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The book is an engrossing journey from pristine wilderness to glittering Rodeo Drive boutiques with stops along the way focusing on genocide, global jidad, child labor and AIDS victims in Africa, to name a few.

In a provocative bit of editing, James Nachtwey's searing photo essay about global poverty, "The Bottom Billion," is jarringly followed by Lauren Greenfield's "Shop til We Drop," a vivid but embarrassing look at another extreme, which is only slightly less shameful than the first.

Some of the pieces will break your heart, some will anger you. All will make you think. To channel your thoughts and feelings into action, the book ends with an appendix "What You Can Do," offering hundreds of ways to be a part of the solution to these problems.

What Matters: The World's Preeminent Photojournalists and Thinkers Depict Essential Issues of Our Time
By David Elliot Cohen

- Michael Zajakowski, Chicago Tribune

Publishers Weekly

Cohen, creator of the photojournalism book America 24/7, edits this socially conscious collection of haunting photographs and disappointing essays that focus on the unchecked ravages of genocide, global warming, AIDS, child labor, extreme poverty and compulsive consumerism. While the pictures-especially the chilling "Images of Genocide" and Stephanie Seymour's portraits of child brides-disquiet with their beauty and horror, the accompanying text from such luminaries as Jeffrey Sachs and Bill McKibben is unfortunately hollow and anodyne, particularly Cohen's introduction ("do something... even something small... to help repair the world"), but Omer Bartov's statement that "Iconic photographs both record the deeds and potentially anesthetize us to them" provides a powerful caveat for this collection. (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Those doubting the power of photojournalism to sway opinion and encourage action would do well to spend some time with this book. In 18 stories, each made up of photos by leading photojournalists and elucidated by short essays by public intellectuals and journalists, this book explores environmental devastation, war, disease, and the ravages of both poverty and great wealth. The photos are specific and personal in their subject matter and demonstrate how great photography can illuminate the universal by depicting the specific. Cohen has a goal beyond simply showcasing terrific photography. In his thoughtful introduction, he makes explicit his aim to connect the work compiled here with the great tradition of muckraking photography that helped to change conditions in New York tenements and to end child labor at the turn of the last century. A terrific concluding chapter directs readers to specific actions they can take if they are moved to do so by the book's images, and it's hard to imagine the reader who would not be moved. Highly recommended for public libraries and academic libraries supporting journalism and/or photography curricula.
—Rachel Bridgewater

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402758348
  • Publisher: Sterling
  • Publication date: 9/2/2008
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 8.20 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

DAVID ELLIOT COHEN is co-creator of the renowned Day in the Life and America 24/7 series of photojournalism books. Four of these volumes were New York Times bestsellers. Several others were national and international bestsellers. A graduate of Yale University, Cohen has appeared on most major US news programs. His award-winning books have been featured on the covers of Time and Newsweek, in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today among many other periodicals worldwide. His pro bono books have benefited victims of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, AIDs education programs in Africa and most recently, AIDS orphans in Uganda.

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2008

    One of the best, and most important, books of 2008

    If you¿re reading this on Barnes & Noble.com, you probably have a pretty good life. You may be curious about what¿s really important to people around the world, and how you can help. What Matters is a powerful book which answers these questions, in stunning photographs and compelling stories. A team of talented photographers and eloquent writers have dedicated years of their lives pursuing their passions. In this book, they share those passions with us. Prepare yourself for an emotional experience. I have a teenage daughter. When I read the chapter on child brides, describing the 10 million young girls who marry each year, many against their will, I was shaken. If you want to understand the world we live in, with clear vision and penetrating insight, this is the book for you. It¿s one of the best, and most important, books of 2008.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2008

    A book for the ages

    Ever wonder what happens to all those AA batteries we use by the millions? Don't even think about it. Ever wonder how quickly the northern ice is melting? Don't even think about it. Ever wonder how the 'bottom billion' people survive? Don't even think about it...or, you can lose yourself in this beautiful, accessible, deadly serious coffee-table book and learn. In these parlous times, hope only comes with awareness, and 'What Matters' lays it out there on a global scale. With essays and photographs by some of the most brilliant and committed activists on the planet, the book was conceived and produced by David Cohen, co-author of the 'Day in the Life' series of photography books. Bravo!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2008

    A reviewer

    'What matters to the world? What matters to me? What is most vital and urgent? The answers are in this extraordinary and moving book. This is an invitation for all of us to get involved.'

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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