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American Power investigates notions of power, both electrical and political. Who has it, what do they do with it, and how does it affect other people?
From 2003 to 2008, I traveled across the United States to photograph in and around sites where fossil fuel, nuclear, hydroelectric, wind, solar, and other alternative power are produced.
The resulting pictures form a portrait of the United States as it clings to past comforts and gropes for a more sensible future. American Power underscores the intersection between energy production, energy consumption, and climate change. In short, I hope to illuminate the relationship between American society and the American landscape.
American Power is also about the deepening of my political convictions. While making this body of work, I encountered Homeland Security obstacles, environmental contamination, corporate impenetrability, and a culture of excess. These experiences turned my initial curiosity into rage and sadness. American Power has led me to think harder about the artist’s role in a country teetering between collapse and transformation.
— Mitch Epstein
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BP Carson Refinery, California, 2007
Amos Coal Power Plant, Raymond, West Virginia, 2004
Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, Nevada/Arizona, 2007
Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant, Georgia III, 2006
Altamont Pass Wind Farm, California, 2005
Decommissioned Reactor 4, Hanford Nuclear Reservation, Washington, 2006
Mitch Epstein is a photographer who helped pioneer fine-art color photography in the 1970s. His photographs are in numerous major museum collections, including New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Whitney Museum of American Art; The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Tate Modern in London.
In 2022, he exhibited his photographs and films (Salaam Bombay! and India Cabaret) at Les Rencontres d’Arles in the 12th century Abbey of Montmajour, Arles, France. In 2020-21, he had an exhibition of his series Property Rights at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas; it was also exhibited at Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York and Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne (2019). Other solo exhibitions include the Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow (2020), Museum Helmond, Netherlands (2019), Andreas Murkudis, Berlin; Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York; Galerie Les Filles du Calvaire, Paris (2016-17); Fondation A Stichting, Brussels (2013).
In 2013, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis commissioned and premiered a theatrical rendition of Epstein’s series American Power. Directed by Annie B Parsons and Paul Lazar, the American Power performance combined original live music by Erik Friedlander and storytelling by Epstein, along with video and projected photographs and archival material. Epstein and Friedlander performed the show at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio (2014) and Victoria and Albert Museum, London (2015).
Epstein’s seventeen books include Silver + Chrome (Steidl 2022); Recreation (Steidl 2022); Property Rights (Steidl, 2021); In India (Steidl, 2021); Sunshine Hotel (Steidl/PPP Editions, 2019); Rocks and Clouds (Steidl 2017); New York Arbor (Steidl 2013); Berlin (Steidl/The American Academy in Berlin 2011); American Power (Steidl 2009); Family Business (Steidl 2003), winner of the 2004 Kraszna-Krausz Photography Book Award.
In 2020, Mitch Epstein was inducted into the National Academy of Design. In 2011, he won the Prix Pictet for American Power. Among his other awards are the Berlin Prize in Arts and Letters from the American Academy in Berlin (2008), and a Guggenheim Fellowship (2003).
Epstein has worked as a director, cinematographer, and production designer on several films, including Dad, Mississippi Masala, and Salaam Bombay!. He lives with his family in New York City.