The Coffee Table

Power to the Peaceful

Photos of American electrical/political power deliver quite an eyeful.

Book Cover Having studied with Gary Winogrand and been critically well-regarded (by Susan Sontag, among others), photographer Mitch Epstein early eschewed the artsy conceit of black-and-white photography to experiment with and perfect his use of color. This concentration is first in evidence in his early works and books created from his travels in Vietnam and India. His latest tome, American Power (Steidl), completes the personal trilogy he began in the mid-'90s with The City and then followed in 1999 with the second volume, Family Business. From 2003 through 2008, spurred by the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act and Hurricane Katrina, Epstein traveled around the United States to sites producing all types of energy--fossil fuel, nuclear, hydroelectric, wind, and solar. The purpose of this "energy tourism" was to exhibit some nexus between electrical and political power. The 64 color plates in this monograph are his eloquent portrayal of 21st-century America: a culture at a critical crossroads.

A New York Times reviewof an exhibit of the photos included in this book offers this:
What is interesting, beyond the haunting, complicated beauty and precision of these images, is Mr. Epstein's ability to merge what have long been considered opposing terms: photo-conceptualism and so-called documentary photography. He utilizes the supersize scale and saturated color of conceptualism... [These] images [also have] a look that is at once real and unreal--or, as people who witness a catastrophe say, "surreal."
By now it should go without saying that this Steidl photo book is well published and includes an essay by Epstein, who ponders the role of the artist in a crucial time. And it should be noted that while the photos are well reproduced, the originals measure 70x92--quite an eyeful.
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