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Material World


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About the Author

Peter Menzel is a photographer known for his coverage of international feature stories on science and the environment. His award-winning photographs have been published in Life, National Geographic, Smithsonian, The New York Times Magazine, Time, Stern, GEO, and Le Figaro. Together with Faith D'Aluisio, he is the co-creator of the books Material World: A Global Family Portrait and Women in the Material World; and is the co-author of Man Eating Bugs: The Art and Science of Eating Insects.

Faith D'Aluisio is a former television news producer and is the editor and lead writer for their Material World books, which include Material World: A Global Family Portrait, Women in the Material World, the James Beard Award-winning Man Eating Bugs, and What the World Eats.


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.

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

"Material culture, laid bare in this way, is surprisingly intimate-and whets a persons appetite to see the world." -The Atlantic

"Striking." -San Francisco Chronicle

"This remarkable book vividly presents its own cross section of families today, with the energy and intimacy of a work of art for our times . . . This is a record of striking value. No time traveler could bring back a more valuable resource." -Scientific America

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