The Times has included Rory MacLean’s Pictures of You in its list of the best history books of 2017.
“Ten photos. Ten stories. Ten decades. Pictures of You is a collection of achingly intimate vignettes from the chaotic 20th century. The stimuli for these stories are photos stored at the Archive of Modern Conflict. While each story is fabricated, the composite picture of a century is painfully accurate. Rory MacLean offers a glimpse of the past otherwise unavailable through the eyepiece of conventional history. This book will upset those who expect history to be true. Yet history is at best a faithful reconstruction, at worst a lie. Pictures of You is painful, beguiling, haunting and sensitive. It’s not the truth. But it is true.”
– Gerard DeGroot, The Times, November 25, 2017
The first killing of the Cold War, the dying hopes of a doomed aviator, the ghosts of Native America at Alcatraz, Chairman Mao’s most timid lover, Nature’s final battle with Man. One photograph – or group of photographs – comes from each decade of the 20th century. All belong to the Archive of Modern Conflict. Over the past 25 years, the archive’s small collection of amateur photographs has grown into one of the world’s most moving image treasuries, its shelves now holding pictures of some four-million lost lives.
In the 20th century, amateur photography took history – and collective memory – out of the hands of historians and gave it to individuals. In Pictures of You, bestselling author Rory MacLean narrates a journey across the globe and into the lives of ordinary men and women who lived through extraordinary times. He travels along the archive’s shelves, venturing from Siberia to Rangoon, China to Shepperton Studios, hearing forgotten voices that echo from the depths of time, picturing lives that mirror our own and saving the stories behind these pictures of you.