Bill Owen's 1973 book Suburbia offered an extended photographic portrait of the primarily white, middle-class communities in San Francisco's East Bay. Anthropological in orientation, the pictures are sympathetic and censorious, managing to provoke recognition, humor and anxiety in contemporary viewers. Writing about his childhood on suburban Long Island in Second Nature: A Gardener's Education, Michael Pollen observed that "In the suburbs, the front lawn is, at least visually, a part of a collective landscape; while not exactly public land, it isn't entirely private either. . . the backyard [is] its private aspect. In the back, you could do pretty much whatever you wanted." Owens's image of a woman watering a planter made from a toilet, centrally displayed in her backyard, exemplifies this idea in the extreme.


Bill Owens (b. 1938) is an American photographer, photojournalist, brewer and editor living in Hayward, Caliifornia. The recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship in 1976 and two NEA grants, he is best known for his photographs of suburban domestic scenes taken in the East Bay and published in the book Suburbia in 1973. His photographs have been exhibited internationally and are in many collections including The Museum of Modern Art, Berkeley Art Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, San Jose Museum of Art and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. In 2003, Owens founded the American Distilling Institute, a professional membership organization and publishing house "to promote and defend the art and enterprise of craft distilling."



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