My Fellow Americans
by Jeff Jacobson
University of New Mexico Press
Watching and waiting for the final results of the 2020 US Presidential Election and thinking, “What will Biden say if he wins?” And Trump, if he loses?
I’m pretty sure either will begin the speech with, “My Fellow Americans …” although it will be quite clear one will be saying it with sincerity, the other scorn.
Perhaps it is important at this juncture to remind ourselves that it’s better to believe in pictures, like those by Jacobson. It is not that they are all accurate, but at least I know he and other serious documentary photographers have never tried fudging their personal opinions as the only truths.
Jacobson, a trained lawyer, wrote as well as he photographed. He passed away August 9, 2020.
In fact, I appropriated his beautiful words – “I simultaneously feel deeply at home in this country and like a perpetual visitor to a strange and bizarre land.” – when I was working on Panoramic Singapore.
It is easy to want to steal them when they are so crystal clear and tug at my heart at all levels.
I don’t remember Jacobson going around brandishing himself a concerned photographer, but we know from his work that he was.
When he said, “My Fellow Americans …”, you know that it would be a precursor to get you to listen up, and look at the images, and think, “Do you like what you are seeing?” By that we are not merely concerning ourselves with just the aesthetics.
It’s more like “Do you really like what you are seeing?”
Are you happy that America remains/remained segregated? Are you pleased with this class divide? Are you going to sit quietly while corporate America destroys our environment, poisoning the water, the air? And what are we going to do about things that we are concerned about?
I don’t think I need to imagine what a new edition of Jacobson’s My Fellow Americans will look like.
But yet I hope and want to see one, if only to remind myself how things can be better.