Over the past several years I have started collecting photography books with more purpose. In another post I am working on, I will go into what we can takeaway as photographers from these books, but I thought I would kick this new series off with the book that started it all from me; America Wide by Ken Duncan. I received this book as a Christmas gift from my girlfriend (now wife) in 2001, just as I was beginning the pick up a camera in my freshman year of college. I poured over these pages wondering how I could take pictures like Ken Duncan. It was this book that got me to start waking up early to photograph sunrises and spurred my desire to travel to faraway landscapes. I owe a lot to how I compose landscape images to this book.
A little about Mr. Duncan....Ken Duncan is an award winning Australian photographer who is best known for his panoramic photographs. This is the kind of panoramic photography that isn’t done with image-stitching in Photoshop but rather with a dedicated panoramic film camera. Mr. Duncan is a devout Christian and exudes, warmth, enthusiasm, and positivity in each interview I have viewed or read with him. I also had the opportunity to hear Ken speak and briefly meet him in 2006 and the same was true of that experience. This worldview certainly appears throughout all of his work, but especially in this compilation of photographs. Overall the photographs are bright and cheerful and when examining this work it is difficult to come away feeling bad about the state of our Union.
America Wide is a broad survey of Mr. Duncan’s work from the US and features photographs from every state. The shear commitment to accomplish such a project is in and of itself worthy of a book, but the photographs that Mr Duncan came away with are commendable.
All-in-all this is a great book and worthy of sitting on your own coffee table. The only criticism I would have is that the work doesn’t go particularly deep into the American landscape. With each image, the viewer almost immediately can recognize the location. Mostly because the chosen locations are iconic to the American psyche such as Mount McKinley or Yosemite Valley. If this was a college class it would be the 101: Survey of the American Landscape. Wide and broad but not very deep on each topic. After viewing multiple times, it will leave you wanting the photographs and the photographer to go deeper. If only he could have a month or six months to spend in each place, I wonder to myself However, that is not likely the intent of the artist and Mr. Duncan ultimately accomplishes what he set out to achieve.
Also, to see more of the work from this book take a look at the following video. (Please excuse the cheesy music.)