American / True Colors

Stephen Marc

A grand new look at America in 2020 and how its population is changing.
Date Published :
January 2021
Publisher :
George F Thompson Publishing
Contributor(s) :
Bill Kouwenhoven, Rebecca Senf
Illustration :
250 color photographs and 4 composites
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding : Hardback
ISBN : 9781938086786
Pages : 328
Dimensions : 9 X 11 inches
Stock Status : In stock


IPPY Gold Medal 2021 for best book in PhotographyAn epic survey of America and its people from coast to coast during the Obama and Trump presidencies from an African-American artist's perspective.

American / True Colors is an exploration—from coast to coast—of who we are as Americans. Photographer Stephen Marc captures American identity and sense of place like no other artist has, from the perspective of a baby-boomer generation African American documentary/street photographer raised in the Midwest. His book is a record of the collective American community in 2020, in all kinds of places; from public gatherings at special events, to commemorations, parades, and protests, to everyday encounters in city streets. 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. Americans are witnessing a significant readjustment in how they define themselves and recognize each other as Americans; and those in search of the “American Dream” today have to be prepared for the contradictions.

It has been decades since photographers Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Garry Winogrand, and others made big trips and depicted a nation undergoing great change in their time. 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.

In its nearly 250-year history, the United States of America has experienced many defining moments, challenged both from within and outside its borders. This is another of those times, when an imperial president and a dysfunctional two-party system have left the nation at odds with itself. It has yet to be determined how Americans will square the lived reality of its citizens and its foundational principles and ideals. Marc’s stunning portrait of who we are as Americans contains 250 photographs in advance recognition of America’s 250th birthday in 2026.

About The Author

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 twenty 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. In 2021, Marc was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in Photography. 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). Since 2008, Passage on the Underground Railroad has been listed as an Interpretative Program of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, a division of the National Park Service.

Bill Kouwenhoven is an independent photography critic, curator, and essayist who focuses on documentary and photo-journalism. He has written for Hotshoe, Photo Metro Magazine, and World Press Photo, among other publications, and he has curated and provided introductory essays for more than fifteen monographs and for Nuevas Historias, an overview of contemporary Spanish photography and video arts (Hatje Cantz, 2008).

Rebecca A. Senf is the Norton Family Curator of Photography at the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona, in Tucson. Her books include Making a Photographer, a major new book on Ansel Adams (Yale University Press in association with the Center for Creative Photography, 2020), Reconstructing the View: The Grand Canyon Photographs of Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe (University of California Press, 2017), and To Be Thirteen, showcasing the work of Betsy Schneider (Radius Press and Phoenix Art Museum, 2017).


“This timely book presents a rollicking swing through the rambunctious diversity inscribing our country today. Rather than paper over our societal divisions, Marc’s vibrant pictures celebrate our cultural multiplicity and assertiveness, for it is here that he locates what it is to be American.”

- John Rohrbach, Senior Curator of Photographs, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, and author of Accommodating Nature

American/True Colors puts on display the audacity of a people who strangely emerge. Some manifest like a drunk uncle who, despite his perceived flaws, is still family. More than enough has happened in recent years to show how we boldly sort through such a contradiction and often without ever saying as much. As did Walker Evans, Jacob Riis, and Gordon Parks, among others, a snapshot of that "sorting through" is offered in Stephen Marc's compelling photographs. They deftly illuminate our complicated times when everyone still gets to make claims, however violently and troubling, on the possibilities of the American dream. This persistent and audacious claiming is what makes America still special. Whether we are hoisting up or kneeling before the flag, we unflatten the hurdles to becoming the family we already are—whether we like it or not.”

- Sharony Green, Associate Professor of History, University of Alabama, and author of Remember Me to Miss Louisa

“…Marc’s keen eye for detail zooms in on our so American tattoos, city murals, penchant for dogs, historical re-enactments of Revolutionary and Civil Wars, enduring love for bright-colored fashions, and other Americana circa now that you can find foreign tourists marveling at. American/True Colors presents us with high-density images, where every centimeter on the page rushes to the microphone to tell its story.”

- Amy Munice, Picture This Post

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