Mitch Epstein, New Orleans I, Lousiana, 1974

From the 11th of November 2010 to the 22nd of January 2011 – Kunst Museum, Bonn

Mitch Epstein, born in 1952 in Holyoke, Massachusetts, is one of those prominent American photographers, who have become known in Germany more through their book publications than from their exhibitions. This imbalance is now to be set aright with the large-scale exhibition that will portray the development of Mitch Epstein’s work using two extremely different photographic series. The series begun in 1973 called Recreation – American Photographs is in keeping with the best tradition of American “Street Photography”, capturing everyday situations, unspectacular leisure activities, and leisure moments, but nevertheless attesting to fundamentals about life in the USA in the 1970s and 1980s. Precisely these chance encounters and constellations of motifs document the openness of a pluralistic society that has perhaps gone somewhat awry, whose liberality seems all but to have disappeared now decades later.  At least, this is what is suggested by the second photo-series presented in Bonn under the title American Power (beginning in 2003).  It directs our view to one of the central factors of power in America, the energy industry, which not only intervenes in society, but also in nature, changing both. The cooling towers and refinery buildings thrust themselves domineeringly into the picture beyond all proportions, relegating everything else to the sidelines. This also applies to the photographer himself, who – unlike in Recreation – is no longer an integral part in the flow of events. In American Power he encounters a power that scrutinizes him – with at least as much suspicion as he scrutinizes it.  Thus, with the aforementioned series, the exhibition presents two completely different faces of America, whereby Mitch Epstein manages to capture what he has seen in iconically dense, expressive photographs in both Recreation and in American Power.

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