A Day in the Life of America

Originally published in Year In Reading by Stacy N. Elliott on February 2, 2012

On May 2, 1986, two-hundred of the world’s leading photographers staged the largest photography session to capture A Day in the Life of America.  There were thousands of pictures with splendid artistry and only a few graced the pages of this oversized book.

I know that a picture book was not on my list of books to read this year, but as I was cataloging books that were given to me I could not help but read this one.  From cover to cover, in about an hour’s time, I examined every picture and read every word.  It is a funny habit that I have.  I read whatever words that are placed in front of me; whether it is a novel, picture book, or the back of the cereal box.  This time, I was rewarded with visions of the past. 

In 1986, I was eleven years old.  I was adjusting to a single parent home, looking forward to finally graduating elementary school and writing letters to my best friend who had moved across town.  (Both of our mothers worked for the same company, and they would pass our letters to each other every day.)  It was fascinating to see the pictures from a time that once existed in my memory.

I reminisced over the clothes we wore and the hairstyles we sported.  Then, I remembered my dreams of becoming a debutante, and envying the brides with their lace dresses.  Beautiful and devastating landscapes filled my vision, and as I turned the page, mothers with their babies pulled at my heartstrings.

If a couple hundred photographers converged on May 2, 2012, I wonder what America would look like today.  Would there be pictures of foreclosed homes and displaced families standing in unemployment lines or filling forms for welfare?  Or would there be pictures of a recovering economy, smiling citizens, and happy Americans?  What would a day in the life of America look like today?

If you have the opportunity to look through a picture book, pick one up and take the time to absorb what you see and read.  A Day in the Life of America was time well spent, and I would like to thank those who had put forth the effort into publishing this book.

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