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