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What Matters

Photography that challenges us to make a difference.

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(To see images from this and other photo books reviewed by the Monitor, click  here.) The collection of photo essays created by David Elliot Cohen in What Matters (Sterling, 336 pp., $27.95) holds an unforgiving mirror up to some of the most critical issues of our time. From AIDS to global warming to oil addiction and material opulence, photojournalists and writers force us to look into uncomfortable daily realities around the world.

It is difficult to look through James Nachtwey’s disturbing images of poverty in Africa and Shehzad Noorani’s photographs of child labor in Bangladesh. Contrast these scenes with Lauren Greenfield’s images of hyper-consumer lifestyles in the United States, Europe, and Asia, and the message is clear: Very few people own most of the world’s assets.

Contributing author Omer Bartov describes the viewing experience best when he says, “These photographs tell a truth we would rather not know.

They have the power to take us to places we will never visit, show us sights we hope never to see. Yet they also become part of our vocabulary of images, linking in our minds different epochs and geographies, making connections between otherwise unrelated events....”

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