A Photographer Explores Facets of American Identity

Stephen Marc


The recently published book American / True Colors (GTF Publishing) is an exploration—from coast to coast—of who we are as Americans. Photographer Stephen Marc captures American identity and sense of place -- from the perspective of a baby-boomer African-American documentary/ street photographer.


Marc shows the rich gestures of a new American culture that are performed, displayed, and exchanged every day, representing hot issues such as immigration, gender identity, civil and women’s rights, cultural diversity, patriotism, community and police violence, sports and play, and popular culture.


As the United States becomes more demographically and culturally diverse, Americans simultaneously celebrate and are haunted by the nation’s past. This is a critical period of social-media distractions and political divisions reminiscent of the turbulent 1950s and 1960s, and Marc’s photos straddle the presidencies of Barrack Obama and Donald Trump.


It has been decades since photographers Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Garry Winogrand, and others embarked on trips to depict a nation undergoing great change.  American / True Colors presents a similar journey: It is at once an homage, update, critical response, and expanded vision of those earlier pioneering projects. By comparison, as an African-American man, Marc’s perspective and relationship to the nation’s fabric is very different; his photos show how there has been a major shift in how Americans both acknowledge and refute, embrace and reject the emerging diversity. As Marc suggests, America may not have reached the “post-racial era” that many people have hoped for, as the nation navigates the conundrums of coexistence.


Stephen Marc is a documentary/street photographer and digital montage artist, who was raised on the South Side of Chicago. He is Professor of Art at Arizona State University, where he began teaching in 1998, after 20 years on the faculty of the Department of Photography at Columbia College Chicago. Marc has received grants from the Arizona Commission on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, and his awards include the Society for Photographic Education’s Insight Award. Marc has published three photography books: Passage on the Underground Railroad (University Press of Mississippi, 2009), The Black Trans-Atlantic Experience: Street Life and Culture in Ghana, Jamaica, England, and the United States (Columbia College Chicago, 1992), and Urban Notions (Ataraxia Press, 1983).








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All photos courtesy of Stephen Marc
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