Mitch Epstein

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Interview with Mitch Epstein: Images of “American Power”

By Digital Storytelling October 5, 2009

In September, photographer Mitch Epstein spoke by phone with us about his project “American Power,” which was highlighted in Granta’s summer issue. Epstein has worked as a fine art photographer and a photojournalist, as well as a director, cinematographer, or production designer on several films. While “American Power” was not done as a commercial news narrative, it is rooted in story, and Epstein had some interesting things to say about how images do and don’t work as narratives. Here are some excerpts: “With photography, I think one can suggest narrative. But it is not the same as literary storytelling. I think that I do maybe more storytelling and develop a kind of more definitive narrative with the way in which I put my pictures together as exhibitions and books. That’s part of what excites me about books. They have a beginning, a middle, and an end. The way in which the pictures get strong in their sequence does indeed lead you through an experience. And you have to arrive at a final point.” “An individual photo can suggest a narrative. It can imply a narrative. They’re better in a way at articulating questions than they are at delivering answers.” Read the full interview. Read more

Picturing the cost of power

By Digital Storytelling October 5, 2009

Mitch Epstein’s "American Power" depicts the landscape as political narrative. The American photographer, who has chronicled cultural complexities in India and Vietnam, now homes his camera in on dissonances within his own culture. The subject of "American Power" is energy in America—its production, consumption, and unintended consequences. And embedded in the terrain of the images is a critique of American power in the other sense of the word—its destructiveness and contradictions. Like an unflattering mirror, Epstein’s pictures reflect back the troublesome realities that the exercise of American power can create. Read the full essay. Read more