American Power

American Power is a body of work by Mitch Epstein that I have seen exhibited a number of times such as at the Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool. His work is often presented as huge photographs in galleries; made with a large format camera, these are very impressive. One might question whether they are art but that is a complex question.

Their subject matter is varied but essentially they depict American Power in various forms such as pipelines, power stations, solar panels etc around America and the different  environments in which they are found. They are some interesting juxtapositions notably solar panels outside the Pentagon, a building which represents a different kind of American power, nice suburban houses dwarfed by coal stations, a refinery sporting a giant American flag, a female security guard at a nuclear power plant etc

As with other photographers of this kind such as Ed Burtynsky, there is aesthetic representation of the banal if not plain brutal. This raises questions for some. Is not the photographer sanctioning American Power with their entrancing images or are they raising questions about issues and seducing us into looking at them.

The following is from the Amazon review of the book …

In American Power, Mitch Epstein investigates notions of power, both electrical and political. His focus is on energy how it gets made, how it gets used, and the ramifications of both. From 2003 to 2008, he photographed at and around sites where fossil fuel, nuclear, hydroelectric, wind, and solar power are produced in the United States. The resulting photographs contain Epsteins signature complex wit, surprising detail, and formal rigor. These pictures illuminate the intersection between American society and American landscape. Here is a portrait of early 21st century America, as it clings to past comforts and gropes for a more sensible future. In an accompanying essay, Epstein discusses his method, and how making these photographs led him to think harder about the artists role in a country teetering between collapse and transformation.”

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