About the Photographer
With rising personal wealth, consumption increasingly involves an appropriation of goods that goes far beyond the satisfaction of "needs" which might reasonably be regarded as basic (i.e. food, clothes, and shelter). In parts of the world where a large percentage of the population is well off, consumers are motivated by sometimes abstract "needs," such as to communicate particular values or ideals, or to orient themselves socio-economically through their belongings. Photojournalist Peter Menzel offers a lucid illustration of the global economic disparity of real vs. abstract needs in photographs of the homes and possessions of families around the globe, each representing the median income of their country. He spends a week with each family before making a final portrait of the family members in front of their home surrounded by its contents. From South Africa to Mongolia to Japan to Iceland, the subjects place all of their household belongings in front of their dwelling for unique family portraits that, viewed in relation to each other, emphasize the cultural and economic underpinnings of material wealth. Many of these photographs are represented in his book Material World: A Global Family Portrait.
Peter Menzel's work has appeared in the pages of National Geographic, Life, Time, Newsweek, Discover, Smithsonian, Wired, and The New York Times Magazine. He has been honored with awards from the National Press Photographers Association, the World Press Photo Foundation, and Communication Arts Magazine. His photographs have been exhibited at the United Nations; the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago; the National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC; the Museum of Science, Boston; and the Tech Museum, San Jose, California. His pictures are also included in the collection of the International Center of Photography, New York. He lives in Napa, California.
Menzel, Peter. Man Eating Bugs: the Art and Science of Eating Insects. Berkeley, California: Ten Speed Press, 1998.
Menzel, Peter. Material World: A Global Family Portrait. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1994.
Menzel, Peter. Robo Sapiens: Evolution of a New Species. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2000.