America 24/7: A Visual Time Capsule

New book puts image-management software to the test

Big Picture

If you've ever struggled with managing hundreds of digitally captured images, just imagine the immensity of the task of organizing the million-plus photos taken for the new American 24/7 series of books.

During one week in May, 1000 professional photographers were given Olympus C5050 digital cameras and asked to capture and submit up to 250 photos depicting "what America means to you." Amateur, student, and professional photographers were invited to submit up to seven photos each taken that same week.

The project was headed by Time, Life, and National Geographic photojournalist Rick Smolan and editor/author David Elliot Cohen. The first book in the series features about 1200 of the more than one million images submitted. About 10,000 more images will be published in 52 other books, depicting life in each of the 50 states plus New York City and the District of Columbia.

"The America 24/7 book is really about capturing the moment in time--a visual time capsule," says Gina Privitere, communications director for America 24/7. "We're at a very pivotal point in history in terms of how the US is perceived by the rest of the world."

Each professional photographer had an assigned "beat" and an FTP site to which they could upload their 250 photos (or they could burn a CD and submit photos in that way). The photos taken by amateurs and students were uploaded at, a consumer photo-hosting site.

Although photographers weren't given many specific instructions, there were daily themes. "The images that have come in are very nostalgic, mythic views of America. From five-and-dime corner shops, to cattle ranches, to quiet family moments at home," says Privitere. "Some images could have been shot in the '50s." "

Privitere relied upon Filemaker? Pro 6 database software to organize and keep track of the professional photographers, their assignments, whether their cameras had been sent, and if pictures had been submitted yet. After all of the photographs were received, WebWare's digital asset management system was used to manage all the edited photographs. Retouching and color correcting was all done by an in-house staff using Adobe Photoshop and Adobe InDesign was used to lay out the books.

Having worked on similar "Day in the Life" book projects in the past, Privitere had expected to receive as many as 2 million photos. But unlike past projects, in which photographers submitted entire rolls of film for processing, the photographers equipped with digital cameras were much more selective and submitted only their finest photos. (America 24/7:; DK Books:

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