The works shown here are from a much larger project, American Power. Mitch Epstein takes ‘power’ in both its literal and figurative senses: the ability to get something done, the capacity to influence other people or events, political authority and control, energy produced by electrical, mechanical and nuclear means, and national strength. However, as wide as the definition of power is, American hegemony is such that Epstein’s clever title immediately focuses our minds on a country at the apex of military, economic and cultural might. In a general sense, Epstein concerns himself with the production, distribution and consumption of power in the United States.
What this means in visual terms is a close look at plants and factories, oil rigs, mines, wind turbines, petrol stations and other nodes, along with the effects our systems have on nature and society, both short and long term: the suburb, the inner city, recreation, pollution and disaster. Epstein’s gift is for the big picture; every image has a primary subject which strikes the eye, but closer scrutiny reveals all kinds of nuance. Behind the bluster of American power, Epstein seems to be saying, is great frailty.
Text by William A Ewing