The American photographer captured images with a troubled beauty that avoids polemic and cliché. Throughout the work, short texts explore the experiences that led to this distinct vision.

Peter van Agtmael, through Buzzing at the Sill, reveals the little seen margins of the country, from coast to coast, city to country, and everything in between. The context behind the images is revealed in a text booklet, describing the hidden history, personal stories, and detailed background. This book is both about the limitations of photography and an its power. Is a stew of reflections on war, memory, militarism, identity, race, class, family, surrealism and the landscape. Buzzing at the Sill is included on Time’s “Best Photobooks of 2016” list.

Maryland. 2015 © Peter van Agtmael / Magnum Photos The KKK had boasted that dozens from their Klan chapter would attend the rally and cross burning, but there were only a few people when we showed up, including a British TV crew and a freelance photographer. After a few vague excuses, the six or seven Klan members changed into their robes and began a show amongst themselves. One of the leaders started his speech. He shouted that there were ISIS training camps being created by the United Nations with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), whose fighters would then take American’s guns away. This plan was allegedly hatched by Barack Obama (or Barry Soetoro as he was called by the Klan. Soetoro was the surname of Obama’s stepfather, and that he was briefly called Barry Soetoro in elementary school in Indonesia has been used as evidence that Obama was not born inAmerica). After finishing, the hoarse-voiced Klan member burned the UN flag and stomped on it, to the tepid cheers from the small crowd.
Pine Ridge, South Dakota. 2011 © Peter van Agtmael / Magnum Photos While on a road trip with my friend Justin, we met a couple of guys and started chatting. They invited us to check out a spot where they had a rope swing, and on the way we picked up some beer. Dusk was falling and it became a little party; we lit a fire while some of their younger cousins swung over a deep chasm, with just a thin rope around their waist to secure them to the tree. As the beer ran out and the night began to get colder, they invited us back to their home. Upon arrival, their sister (the matriarch of the family) smelled their breath and became furious. She asked us what possessed us to give them beer. She told us there was rampant alcoholism on the reservation and declared we were just another in a long line of white men exploiting the Lakota. We were filled with tremendous shame and apologized profusely. As she explained the history of the tribe she mellowed and invited us to spend the night. We awoke in the morning to a beautiful dawn and the youngest children tending to the horses.
Detroit, Michigan. 2012 © Peter van Agtmael / Magnum Photos After dinner at Lyniece’s house.
Buzzing at the Sill book cover. Peter van Agtmael