Mitch Epstein’s first UK solo show will launch the Open Eye Gallery’s new home, Laura Davis reports
Observing Epstein’s images is intended to be “a kind of layered experience” as they are both a testimony to achievement and a damning vision of the American Dream gone awry.
“I hope Open Eye visitors are moved and in some way unnerved by them – that’s what I ask of myself from the work – and also excited by them,” he says.
He mainly shot with an 8x10in format camera, making them a technical accomplishment as well as an artistic one.
Epstein sees his pictures as an extension of the work of 19th century US photographers such as Carleton Watkins or Eadweard J Muybridge and Timothy O’Sullivan.
“I’m working not just with a set of themes but also within the larger construct of the history of photography,” he explains.
His images of the American West – including a dramatic view of the Colorado River as it meets the Hoover Dam, in particular support his argument.
“When I’m out in this extraordinary, monumental, otherworldly landscape I’m also thinking about the photographers in the 19th century who traversed that landscape under incredibly adverse conditions and made pictures that were both in awe of and monumentalised that landscape,” he explains.
“My pictures still contain some of that awe but at the same time they’re looking into the way in which we have injected ourselves and left something of ourselves in that landscape.”
MITCH EPSTEIN – American Power is at the Open Eye Gallery from November 5 to December 23.