Look at the U.S.A. A Diary of War and Home

Peter van Agtmael

A chronicle of post-9/11 America, at war and at home, as seen through the lens of one of Magnum Photos' leading photographers. A compelling and revealing photographic critique.

A personal chronicle of post-9/11 America, at war and at home. Through reportage and memoir, in photographs and words, Look at the U.S.A. documents the major fault lines that have defined this era, beginning with the war in Iraq and ending with the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

Fueled by ideology, insecurity, ambition, and a deep fascination with war, Peter van Agtmael began documenting America’s war in Iraq in 2005. So began a photographic odyssey that would span more than two decades generating work that grew from a deep need to understand and peel back the layers of his troubled society.

Confronting the mythologizing of war and seductive nature of conflict on the American psyche, Look at the U.S.A. explores the disconnect between the intergenerational wars and the home front, juxtaposing American troops in combat with their grieving families at home and the recovery of the wounded. As the book’s narrative progresses, the gaze begins to widen, to the imprints of nationalism, the election of Donald Trump, militarism, and race and class on American society.

Layered with van Agtmael’s personal accounts, observations, and interviews with those he has encountered on his journey, Look at the U.S.A. is a damning, sometimes ironic critique that will make it one of the seminal photobooks on war.

Reviews

A refined collection of [Peter van Agtmael's] life's work, putting together the pieces of a long arc from the war in Iraq to war-related imagery from the United States, all of it shaping into a larger exercise in truth-finding. The book, which combines personal reflections with some arresting imagery, becomes an intimate memoir of a man reckoning and wrestling with the importance of events kick-started by 9/11 all the way up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol and Afghanistan's return to Taliban rule… What we are given is van Agtmael's reflections on how personal such a thing as truth can be even as those holding the most power try to make us all subscribe to their version of it… Transcend[s] mere record and launch[es] into the reaches of profundity.

— The Washington Post

Contributors

Peter van Agtmael

Author

Peter van Agtmael is a Magnum photographer. His books include Look at the U.S.A., Sorry for the War, and Disco Night Sept 11.