Picks and Pans Review: Rich and Poor

updated 03/17/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/17/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Jim Goldberg

"Poverty sucks, but it brings us closer together," writes Linda Banks under a photograph showing her huddling with a man in a dingy room with cracking plaster. A boy of about 6 stands nearby, wearing only underpants. "I have power because I am a good person," writes Arthur Dettner Jr. under a picture of himself and his gorgeous young wife, cuddling on a bed in a tasteful, well-appointed room. Those are two of the 78 photographs with commentary that the San Francisco-based Goldberg has gathered for this grimly fascinating book. He started out, he says, to shoot poor people in transient hotels, then decided to add pictures of the wealthy in their homes; the polarized result is, Goldberg notes, hardly scientific or objective, but it is a most vivid illustration of extremes in American society. The photographs are deceptive. Most are posed portraits of people staring at the camera. Yet they are carefully framed and lit; juxtaposed with comments, which Goldberg's subjects wrote in reaction to his pictures, the photos seem full of life and unhappy truths. Goldberg provides no information about the subjects except their names, and the curiosity he arouses deserves better treatment. Who, for instance, is Gary Zellerbach? Under a picture of him sitting forlornly in a modest den, he writes, "People are envious of my wealth. I can't help having been born with money. I try to ignore the hurt and hide it all away where I don't have to deal with it." (Random House, paper, $15.95)

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