Gallery: Mitch Epstein’s Haunting Photos of “American Power” Win the Pr...

Amos Coal Power Plant, Raymond City, West Virginia 2004
Mitch Epstein’s haunting and informative photography series, “American Power,” was recently announced as the winner of the Prix Pictet contest. The Prix Pictet seeks to confront current social and environmental challenges, and Epstein’s photographs do just that -- he documents the production, use, and consequences of fossil fuels in 25 states over a 5 year period. The fossil-fuel powered infrastructure of each town is seen as a symbol of progress and growth by some, but Epstein’s photos seek to disprove this line of thought. His photographs show these symbols of power, but also reveal their damaging effects - polluted water and air, desolate scenery and structural monstrosities amidst beautiful nature.

“American Power” captures the nature of our oil and coal-dependent society and the consequences that it has incurred on the environment. Epstein’s photographic journey depicts a very real lifestyle for many small towns across America. Suburban yards sit in the shadow of cooling towers, strip mines mar mountain landscapes, and giant oil rig stations interrupt otherwise peaceful settings. Epstein completes the portrait by photographing inhabitants of these towns doing their everyday activities — residents posing with dirt bikes, and even family portraits in front of dad’s gas guzzling big rig.

Over the five years that Epstein has photographed the “American Power” series, he also began to document and include the newer breed of energy sources that have increasingly sprouted up around the country. His gloom and doom photos of overused land are juxtaposed with images of hope – giant lush green wind farms, solar panels soaking up the sun, and biotech factories show us that cleaner power is possible, and a reality.

“American Power” is a photographic essay on the truth and consequences of where exactly our power comes from. Epstein’s powerful images have also been released as a monograph, available from Steidl.

+ Mitch Epstein

+ Prix Pictet

© Mitch Epstein/ Black River Productions, Ltd.
Courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.


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  1. kedwa30 April 6, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    I’m just frustrated that no one seems to know about Geothermal Binary technology. You can use the same drills that drill for oil to drill deep enough to get heat which can be brought to the surface with a closed loop of water where it can then either vaporize a chemical in a closed loop which spins a turbine, or else it could be used with sterling engines to spin a generator. Why is this technology that can be used anywhere being ignored?

  2. karenwil April 5, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    Having studied a little photograph I appreciate Epstein’s talent.
    Controversial issues are always interesting.

    I like “bpg131313″ stand behind hydropower,solar, wind, and wave tech. Renewable energy sources are the answer to our future.
    We need to be responsible and be resourceful, and creative with how we reuse old materials.
    A 94% recyclable chair is great Aeron Chairs have about that for green!

  3. AllForTheGreen April 3, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    …How is the Biloxi, Mississippi 2005 even remotely related to consequences of fossil fuel? Only an act of nature or human dickishness could strew debris like that.

  4. bpg131313 March 31, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    I think there’s a lot more to be done regarding offshore wind farms, and wave every capture. Here in the Puget Sound area, we get nearly all of our energy through hydropower. I know there are a lot of people who disapprove of it, but I’ll stand by hydropower instead of standing by coal, or gas power. I’ll support solar, wind, and wave tech as it’s brought online though, as well. I think using all of the renewable energy sources is the answer.

  5. kedwa30 March 31, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    I’d like to see a picture of a Geothermal-Binary power plant.

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