Mitch Epstein, American power

From September 13, 2011 to November 20, 2011

The Musée de l’Elysée presents the latest project by Mitch Epstein, American Power. This series of 63 photographs taken between 2003 and 2008 examines the production and consumption of energy in the United States, and its impact on society and the American landscape. This is his first exhibition in Switzerland.

In 2003, Mitch Epstein was commissioned by the New York Sunday Times Magazine to produce a photo report on the disappearance of Cheshire, a small town in Ohio located near a major power plant. In order to avoid any liability for environmental contamination, the American Electric Power Company paid the inhabitants to leave the town and was in the process of destroying all the houses.

Epstein then decided to continue to focus on the issue of energy and developed his research across the country. For five years he has travelled in the U.S. - from North Dakota to Mississippi, from Alaska to Hawaii - and has photographed energy production plants, including coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, hydro-electric, fuel cell, wind and solar.

At the completion of this project, Mitch Epstein discovered the ramifications between energy and the various authorities (political, military, industrial, consumer-related, social, religious, etc.). Energy is a sensitive issue. Mitch Epstein was the victim of constant harassment from the authorities throughout the project. Following the events of September 11th, the Bush administration established the Patriot Act to strengthen security measures and surveillance. The right to take photographs in public places is now limited.

This photographic project has recently taken on a new dimension. Mitch Epstein has indeed created with his wife, Susan Bell, a website called whatisamericanpower.com that offers more detailed information on these images and their history. This work was also extended to the public space with the display of a selection of images accompanied by quotations on billboards to raise public awareness. 

The exhibition is organised in collaboration with the Astrid Ullens de Schooten collection and the Fondation A Stichting, Brussels, the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris, and the Thomas Zander gallery, Cologne.

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