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BOOK REVIEWS


SEA LION BALLET. The Stellar Cove Exhibit is a prime attraction at the Oregon Zoo, drawing in more than 1.3 million kids and adults each year. (Photo courtesy of the Portland Tribune/L.E. Baskow)

From The Asian Reporter, V15, #14 (April 5, 2005), page 13.

Oregon, with a new eye

Oregon 24/7

Created by Rick Smolan and David Elliot Cohen

DK Publishing, 2004

Hardcover, 144 pages, $24.95

By Andrew J. Weber

Oregon 24/7 is no ordinary coffee-table book. Photographs of Crater Lake, Hells Canyon, and even Mt. Hood above the Portland skyline are nowhere to be found. If the traditional photographic approach to Oregon has been to showcase the state’s spectacular geography, this book is anything but traditional.

Instead, Oregon 24/7 is an intimate portrait of life in the Beaver State at the dawn of the 21st century, a collage of human experience that even Photographer Laureate Ray Atkeson could not have produced. In chapters such as "Reason to Believe," "Hard at Work," and "Our Town," the camera turns its eye toward the people who call Oregon home and the disparate lives they lead. If there is a message in Oregon 24/7, it is that Oregonians are far more diverse than anyone might think, including even ourselves.

The book is the brainchild of Rick Smolan and David Elliot Cohen, well known in the publishing world for their ability to integrate compelling storytelling with state-of-the-art technology. Their formula has been highly successful and they have been featured in Time, Newsweek, Fortune, and other national magazines. Previous projects from the pair include A Day in the Life of America, A Day in the Life of the Soviet Union, and America 24/7, a New York Times bestseller. Oregon 24/7 is one of 50 books spawned by the popularity of America 24/7, each focusing on an individual state.

To initiate the project, Smolan and Cohen offered a challenge to the nation: "Tell us — in pictures — who you are, what you care about, who you love, where you work, and what you do every day," and invited local photographers to respond. Culled from thousands of images, the work of professionals and amateurs is presented side-by-side; Pulitzer Prize winners fight for space on the page with recreational photographers who have never had their pictures published before — certainly not in a polished, hardcover format like this.

In order to pull off such a large scale project (over 1,000,000 photos were uploaded to their web servers for consideration) effective application of the technology was essential. However, the use of digital photography and production techniques went beyond logistic demands of the project; it was essential to fulfilling the mission of "democratizing" the process, allowing anyone to submit a photo.

Observing that in 2003 digital camera sales outpaced film camera sales for the first time, Smolan and Cohen decided that each book would be created using an entirely digital process, powered by software and equipment from high-powered corporate sponsors like Adobe, Olympus, and Google. Anyone with even the most basic handheld digital camera could participate, and many people did, capturing images of family and friends, children and pets, weddings and birthdays, sporting events and moments of repose.

That spirit of universal participation still continues, as each owner can create a personalized copy. Thanks to the technological possibilities available and a unique offer from the publisher, the jacket of the book is completely customizable with any image of the buyer’s choice, another expression of the book’s human focus and innovative use of technology.

Regardless of what ends up on the front, the final result is a loving self-portrait and a collection of frozen moments reflecting how we see ourselves and those around us. Perhaps Oregon 24/7 might be better named Oregonians 24/7, since it is not so much about the state itself but the multitude and infinite variety of ways we populate it.

For more information on Oregon 24/7 or any of the books in the America 24/7 project, including how to create your own custom cover, visit the project website at <www.america24-7.com>.

To buy me, visit these retailers:

Powell's Books

  Amazon