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These United States - Jake Rajs

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

THESE United States is a celebration of America's natural and architectural wonders although, for some, the latter might arguably be considered otherwise.

Jake Rajs is the photographer whose images are neatly categorized according to subject matter, thereby effectively dividing These United States into six distinct sections - not always a good thing but, with a subject as vast as this one, it does work very well.

Land, Coast, City and Country all speak for themselves; Trails and Freedom, on the other hand, are less obvious.

Trails explores highways and byways across the length and breadth of the land - from the neon lights of world-famous Route 66 to Wyoming railroad tracks glinting in evening sunlight.

Whereas Freedom examines the quintessential American ideal and includes the Capitol building, in Washington DC, and Mount Rushmore National Monument, in South Dakota - names synonymous with freedom.

Images, though, aren't always what you'd expect. There are, of course, the familiar land and city scapes - Monument Valley and a post September 11 Manhattan skyline, for example.

But Rajs goes where other photographers seldom venture - to the very heart of America, the little-known towns and backwoods normally overlooked. Nor does he forget Hawaii, as is so often the case.

And while all this is commendable, Rajs' pursuit of the unusual does leave glaring omissions - Zion National Park is one that springs immediately to mind. Even Bryce Canyon is relegated to a 'cameo' appearance on a title page. A pity, given Rajs' talent in this field.

Indeed, his talent is never in doubt, whether from a camera angle, an innovative shot or the clever use of nature itself - a sunset, early morning mist, or a blanket of snow. Singly or combined, what might otherwise be just one of a hundred or so similar images, becomes unique and very personal.

Furthermore, each image is beautifully presented, sometimes in a double page spread or even a gatefold, thereby conveying something of the true scale and nature of the subject matter.

With so many books on America to choose from, much of course, will depend on taste. But if it's something different you're looking for, These United States is the one for you.

Available in hardback, mini and limited editions.

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