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The Good Citizen

The Good Citizen

by Benjamin Rasmussen

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The Good Citizen explores how American society came to be what it is today. Over a period of eight years, photographer Benjamin Rasmussen travelled to 43 states and was introduced to over 500 people as he investigated the impact of the country’s complex history on contemporary society. In this new book, Rasmussen’s photographs are combined with essays by Frank H. Wu­ and collectively they seek to provoke thought and conversation around the complicated nature of American identity.

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The book is divided into five chapters—Violence, Exclusion, Archetype, Beauty and Whiteness and Surveillance. The portraits in the book were simultaneously shot on polaroid and a large format camera. It was Rasmussen’s intent to be collaborative—and the instantaneous nature of the polaroid print allowed those who were depicted to be part of a conversation about how they were represented.

The project’s focus moves from an attempted attack on a community of Somali Muslims in Kansas to an evening with the then President Donald Trump in the White House Residence. From the experiences of the people forced into Japanese-American internment camps in Colorado during World War II to a thriving community of Iraqi Yazidis who moved to Nebraska after serving as US interpreters. From those protesting the killing of Michael Brown on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, to a search for the perpetrators of a mass lynching in 1946 in Georgia.

Photographs of the winners of beauty pageants in immigrant communities are shown in contrast to the “white” requirement of US naturalization law that existed until the 1950s. The legacy of settler colonialism is shown through photographs of descendants of Tom White Shirt, an Arapahoe boy who survived the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864. The project explores how US border policy has pushed migrants into deadly desert crossings, and how the children of immigrants assimilate their thoughts and dreams through language of both their families and their communities.

Published February 2023
Text by Frank H. Wu
200 x 250mm
240 pages, 131 Images
Hardback clothback
ISBN 978-1-910401-80-4

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  • '...layering historical and legal context on top of new and archival images. The book covers a dizzying breadth of subjects.'

    - VICE

  • Benjamin Rasmussen is a Faroese/American photographer who grew-up in the Philippines and lives and works United States. His work has been published in outlets including National Geographic, The New York Times, TIME, Vanity Fair, Vogue, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Wired amongst others, and has been exhibited internationally.

    Frank H. Wu is a legal scholar and in 2020, he was appointed as President of Queens College of the City University of New York. He was previously a professor of law at Howard University Law School and during this time wrote Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White.

  • ‘Who was freely invited into this space and who wasn’t? In what ways are the ripples of our past seen in our present? How can we engage more honestly with our history?’

    - Benjamin Rasmussen