(A photographer's compelling and poetic odyssey through mo...)
A photographer's compelling and poetic odyssey through modern-day Vietnam. Mitch Epstein's evocative pictures reveal a complex Vietnam that few Americans have ever seen.This is not a document about the war; nor is it the pastoral idyll other photographers have portrayed. Vietnam, through Epstein's eyes, is a sometimes disturbing and sometimes sublime palimpsest. Vietnam: A Book of Changes interprets a culture and landscape largely cut off from the West for the last thirty years, and now open to a market economy and a new relationship to America. The photographs are suffused with the rawness of Vietnamese life lived on the economic and political edge. Under the layer of friendship lies the tension of politics; under beauty lies violence; under the stark faces of remote villagers is the entrepreneurial momentum drawing them to the city; and under the remnants of war is an artistic bohemia grappling with new freedoms and continued censorship.
(What makes Mitch Epstein's book, The City, particularly i...)
What makes Mitch Epstein's book, The City, particularly interesting is witnessing Epstein's attempt to breathe life back into a classic, albeit tired, genre. Instead of the usual raucous juxtapositions of visual clichés - pictures crammed with street corner sturm und drang and urban gargoyles - The City's elliptical narrative unfolds quietly. There's a meditative, almost medicated calmness to the book's color still lifes and cityscapes: the droll display of overwrought deli cakes; a street festival shooting gallery's targets, featuring the faces of Timothy McVeigh, Amy Fisher and Hitler, offering discounted prices for kids; the sports jacket, carefully folded and placed on the grass in Central Park, whose banal but eerie presence suggests anything from a lunchtime nap to murder. To complicate matters, these images are interspersed with black-and-white portraits - of Epstein's wife, daughter, friends and acquaintances - that are equally enigmatic. Some subjects smile; some look into the distance. Still others stare back - with willful intent, or unable or uninterested in hiding their vulnerability - through the camera's lens. As complex and beautiful as Epstein's photographs of New York situations are, as intimate as his portraits might be, The City ultimately creates something surprising; the opportunity to ponder what photography can and cannot reveal about our public lives and our most private selves. (by Marvin Heiferman).
(Mitch Epstein was 48 and living in New York when his moth...)
Mitch Epstein was 48 and living in New York when his mother called him about the fire. On a windy August night in 1999, two 12-year-old boys had broken into a boarded-up apartment building owned by Epstein's father in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and, just for the hell of it, set it ablaze. The fire had spread, engulfing a nineteenth-century Catholic church, then a city block. The $15 million lawsuit brought by the church against the senior Mr. Epstein threatened to unravel his life. Faced with the family crisis, Mitch went home to help, possessed by the question of how his father, once owner of the largest furniture and appliance store in western New England and former Chamber of Commerce Businessman of the Year in 1970, ended up a character out of an Arthur Miller tragedy. What resulted is Family Business, an epic work about the demise of a Jewish immigrant dynasty. It traces the parallel fall of a New England town from industrial giant to drug-dealing capital. Epstein has combined formally rigorous, large-scale photographs with fluid video clips to re-create his father's universe.
(These pictures, made in the 1970s and 80s, offer a window...)
These pictures, made in the 1970s and 80s, offer a window into the beginning and breadth of Mitch Epstein's career. Most of these photographs are previously unpublished--culled from 15 years of work that addresses the theme of American recreation. Epstein's interpretation of leisure in the United States is characteristically subtle, ranging and sharp-witted. In Recreation, teenage girls abandon a baby to fondle a snake; children sleep naked on a car in an open campground--people stake their private ground in public, if only for a moment, during which Epstein's camera finds them. Gesture gives many of these photographs their pulse: tender hand, strained shoulder, swiveled hip. It isn't the fact of thirteen year olds smoking that will astound viewers, but the grace and knowledge in the young fingers that hold the cigarettes. Epstein's wit is laced with compassion, as he turns these rituals of boredom and beauty, excess and denial, alienation and possibility into a distillation of modern America.
(Mitch Epstein: Work invites readers to trace the evolutio...)
Mitch Epstein: Work invites readers to trace the evolution of Epstein's entire career, following formal and thematic concerns that reveal how his aesthetics, his techniques and his politics have shifted and influenced one another over time.
(As a Jewish-American whose relatives had died in the Holo...)
As a Jewish-American whose relatives had died in the Holocaust, Epstein set out to confront this past by photographing the remnants of Berlin's war and postwar histories. The resulting images-including the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, fashion billboards at Checkpoint Charlie, the Jewish Memorial at Potsdammer Platz and the Dalai Lama speaking at the Brandenburg Gate-reveal Berlin's present to be a fraught accumulation of the layers of its past.
(In his newest series, Mitch Epstein investigates permanen...)
In his newest series, Mitch Epstein investigates permanence and impermanence by photographing rocks that last millions of years and clouds that evaporate before our eyes. These large-format black-and-white pictures, taken in New York City, examine society’s complex relationship to nature, a theme Epstein has explored in previous work, such as his acclaimed tree pictures.
(In 1972, dictator Idi Amin enacts the policy of the force...)
In 1972, dictator Idi Amin enacts the policy of the forceful removal of Asians from Uganda. Jay (Roshan Seth) his wife, Kinnu (Sharmila Tagore), and their daughter, Mina (Sarita Choudhury), a family of third-generation Ugandan Indians residing in Kampala reluctantly and tearfully leave their home behind and relocate. After spending a few years in England, Jay, Kinnu, and Mina settle in Greenwood, Mississippi to live with family members who own a chain of motels there. Despite the passage of time, Jay is unable to come to terms with his sudden departure from his home country, and cannot fully embrace the American lifestyle. He dreams of one day returning with his family to Kampala. The effects of Amin's dictatorship have caused Jay to become distrustful towards black people.
Mitchell Epstein attended Union College in Schenectady, New York (1970-1971), Rhode Island School of Design (1971-1972) and Cooper Union in New York City (1972-1974).
By the mid-1970s, Mitchell Epstein had abandoned his academic studies and begun to travel, embarking on a photographic exploration of the United States. Ten of the photographs he made during this period were in a 1977 group exhibition at Light Gallery in New York.
In 1978, Mitchell Epstein journeyed to India with his future wife, director Mira Nair, where he was a producer, set designer, and cinematographer on several films, including Salaam Bombay! and India Cabaret.
From 1992 to 1995, Mitchell Epstein photographed in Vietnam, which resulted in an exhibition of this work at Wooster Gardens in New York, along with a book titled Vietnam: A Book of Changes.
Having lived and traveled beyond the United States for over a decade, he began to spend more time in his adopted home of New York City. His 1999 series The City investigated the relationship between public and private life in New York.
In 1999, Mitchell Epstein returned to his hometown of Holyoke, Massachusetts, to record the demise of his father's two businesses - a retail furniture store and a low-rent real estate empire. The resulting project assembled large-format photographs, video, archival materials, interviews and writing by the artist. The book, Family Business, which combined all of these elements, won the 2004 Krazna-Kraus Best Photography Book of the Year award. In 2004, his work was exhibited during evening screenings at Rencontres d'Arles festival (at the in Théatre Antique), France.
From 2004 to 2009, Mitchell Epstein investigated energy production and consumption in the United States, photographing in and around various energy production sites. This series, titled American Power,questions the meaning and make-up of power - electrical and political. Epstein made a monograph of the American Power pictures (2009), in which he wrote that he was often stopped by corporate security guards and once interrogated by the FBI for standing on public streets and pointing his camera at energy infrastructure. The large-scale prints from this series have been exhibited worldwide.
In 2009, Epstein collaborated with his second wife, author Susan Bell, on a public art project and website based on American Power. The What Is American Power? project used billboards, transportation posters, and a website to "inspire and educate people about environmental issues." In 2013, The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis commissioned Epstein and cellist Erik Friedlander to create a theatrical performance of American Power, which premiered at the Walker and, in 2015, traveled to the Wexner Center for the Arts in Ohio and The Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Created in collaboration with directors Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar, this theatrical rendition of Epstein’s photographic series combines projected photographs, archival material, video, music, and storytelling.
For his recent New York trilogy, New York Arbor and Rocks and Clouds, Mitchell Epstein photographed the city’s trees, rocks, and clouds with an 8x10 view camera and black and white film to depict the interplay between society and nature.
Recent solo exhibitions of Epstein's work were at Yancey Richardson Gallery (2016), Galerie Thomas Zander (2016), The A Foundation, Brussels (2013), Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris (2011) and Kunstmuseum Bonn (2011); the Musée de l'Élysée in Lausanne (2011) and Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool (2011).
(Mitch Epstein: Work invites readers to trace the evolutio...)2006
(As a Jewish-American whose relatives had died in the Holo...)2011
(In his newest series, Mitch Epstein investigates permanen...)2018
(What makes Mitch Epstein's book, The City, particularly i...)2002
(Mitch Epstein's latest project tackles one of the most lo...)2009
(These pictures, made in the 1970s and 80s, offer a window...)2005
(Mitch Epstein's new work is a series of photographs of th...)2013
(Mitch Epstein was 48 and living in New York when his moth...)2003
(A photographer's compelling and poetic odyssey through mo...)1997
(In 1972, dictator Idi Amin enacts the policy of the force...)1992
Quotes from others about the person
Ben Lifson wrote in his Village Voice review: "Mitch Epstein’s ten color photographs are the best things at Summer Light…. At 25, Epstein's apprenticeship is over, as his work shows. He stands between artistic tradition and originality and makes pictures about abandoned rocking-horses and danger, about middle-age dazzled by spring blossoms, about children confused by sex and beasts. He has learned the terms of black-and-white photography, and although he adds color, he hasn't abandoned them, loving photography's past while trying to step into its future."
Reviewing The City exhibition at Sikkema Jenkins in New York, Vince Aletti wrote that the pictures: "[are] as assured as they are ambitious."
In reviewing the book, Family Business, Nancy Princenthal wrote in Art in America: "The family business chronicled by Mitch Epstein was a small-town retail furniture with a sideline in real estate, and his patiently plotted bell curve of its history is worthy of Dreiser…."
In his Art in America review, Dave Coggins wrote that Epstein: "grounds his images…in the human condition, combining empathy with sharp social observation, politics with sheer beauty."
In an essay for the catalogue Contemporary African Photography from The Walther Collection: Appropriated Landscapes (Steidl, 2011), Brian Wallis wrote: "Epstein has made clear that his intention is neither to illustrate political events nor to create persuasive propaganda. Rather, he raises the more challenging question of how inherently abstract political concepts about the nation and the culture as a whole can be represented photographically… But equally significant is the unique form of documentary storytelling that he has invented in American Power - colorful, sweeping, concerned, intimate, honest."
His first marriage to director Mira Nair ended in divorce. He currently lives in New York with his wife and frequent collaborator, Susan Bell, and his daughter.