Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Things to read

There is a lot of information out there on how other cultures live.  Much of it is out there to try to sell a product or solicit a donation, and much of the rest is overly specific and scientific.  In both cases looking at that information isn't going to be much fun for most people.  Generally I find books about other cultures either end up mired in history and detail such that I just lose interest, or they just don't give enough information to be compelling.  I found two particular books on this subject that manage to successfully combine the desire for detailed information on a particular cultural group with the desire to see all cultural groups.

The first:  Hungry Planet

This book is comprised of photographs and stories about a number of different families across the planet from drastically different cultures ranging from American middle class to refugee camp tents.  Each main photo is of a family with all the food they eat in a week displayed together.  They follow it up with a story about the family, descriptions of their habits, their food preparation techniques and their culture.  The photography is great (as you can see in the link) and the stories are really captivating.  It is powerful to see exactly what food a family consumes and to get a beginning of an understanding as to how they get along and how that food acquisition affects their lives.

The second:  Material World

This is a book with a similar, yet different theme.  The idea here is to go around the world taking pictures of various families with all of their possessions sitting out in view for a single shot.  It is a powerful story when you flip from a wealthy family that needs a huge lawn to display all of their many possessions to a family in another nation that has so little.  Just like Hungry Planet the strength of the book is in letting us all see our possessions (and other people's) in a way that we never do in our day to day experience.  The juxtaposition of rich and poor here is tremendous, yet the book isn't trying to get us to give money but rather just to showcase the vast variety of human standards.

If you want to see some wonderful pictures and get a small, yet powerful glimpse into the lives and stories of people who live drastically different lives than yourself, I cannot recommend these enough.  I am the sort of person who really likes ideas and theories over practical experience but both of these books presented their little chunks of the world in such a compelling fashion I found them hard to put down.

1 comment:

  1. I saw Hungry Planet awhile ago on a book shelf and really enjoyed it when I started reading it.
    Material World looks just as intriguing.

    Peter Menzel is an amazing photojournalist.