Ways of the Hand

A Photographer's Memoir

By Bruce Jackson

Subjects: Art, General Interest, Popular Culture
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438488745, 226 pages, October 2022

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Table of contents

Photographs, Pictures, and Stories

Pictures 1
Words 1

Pictures 2
Words 2

Pictures 3
Words 3

Pictures 4
Words 4

Pictures 5
Words 5

Pictures 6
Words 6


A visual and narrative memoir of a lifetime's encounters with 112 trendsetters, musicians, politicians, writers, and ordinary people by a noted folklorist-photographer.


Honorable Mention, for the 2022 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award in the Photography Category

Rocker Rod Stewart, Jackson says, had it wrong when he titled his breakthrough album Every Picture Tells a Story. Pictures don't tell stories—but many of them call to mind stories or have stories about their making.

Throughout his sixty-year career as folklorist, ethnographer, criminologist, filmmaker, and journalist, Bruce Jackson has taken photographs of family, friends, people he worked with, people he studied, and people he encountered. Ways of the Hand includes 112 of his favorite portraits, portraits in which the hands are often as expressive as the faces. In six sections, Jackson shares photographs of notable musicians, political figures, activists, actors, artists, and writers. These portraits are accompanied by stories of how and where they were taken and the stories they invoke or reflect. The result is a stunning visual and narrative memoir of a lifetime of encounters.

Bruce Jackson is SUNY Distinguished Professor and the James Agee Professor of American Culture at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. His numerous books include American Chartres: Buffalo's Waterfront Grain Elevators, also published by SUNY Press.


"The artistic hand of Bruce Jackson—combining his careful observation, compelling photography, and consummate storytelling—always delivers. In his memoir Ways of the Hand he reflects on his many years of work through a beautifully crafted narrative of photographs and words that combine to unveil the quiet edges of moments as well as the long arc of photographic memory. Saying his photographs are 'markers of a moment,' this poetic sequence of images and stories reveals the ripple and magic of time and experience, the artistic power of looking back and remembering. It's Bruce Jackson at his best." — Tom Rankin, Duke University

"Ways of the Hand makes us wonder whether its author was born with a camera in his hand. Drawing on his Joycean eye for detail and his Faulknerian ear for the story, Bruce Jackson has created a journal that blends his photography and prose with special power. With his beloved wife Diane Christian at his side, Jackson introduces us to folksinger Pete Seeger, bluesman Lightnin' Hopkins, civil rights lawyer William Kunstler, poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, and many more fascinating friends he has known over his lifetime. As we overhear their conversations, jokes, asides, and peer at their portraits, we marvel at how Jackson captures each person and shows how they made this world a far better place than they found it. Ways of the Hand is truly a book for the ages." — William Ferris, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

"Bruce Jackson, himself a great writer and photographer, puts those skills to work to introduce you to a wonderful collection of his fellow creators and their work." — Howard S. Becker, author of Art Worlds