American Power, by Mitch Epstein


Today I went to see the American Power photo exhibit at the Fondation Henri Cartier Bresson, in Paris. Pictures are the result of years – from 2003 to 2009 – of travel and photography by Mitch Epstein.

I believe these pictures clearly enable us to witness how energy, power, is shaping and altering the United States. Some pictures are oppressing – like the one on the left – while others are depressing. (A few however left me indifferent…)

All these pictures make us question our addiction to energy, or rather energies. It personnally increased my determination to push forward the best energy source of all : efficiency.

(the latter being rather invisible, this goes well into the purpose of the exhibit…)

Here is the story behind these great photographs :

It was the fall of 2003 and I had been hired to photograph a town in the process of being erased. The American Electric Power Company had paid residents of Cheshire a lump sum to leave, never come back, and never complain in the media or in court if they became sick from environmental contaminates spewed out of the AEP plant. The company was buying itself a lawsuit-free future. Back in New York, I could not get Cheshire out of my mind.

(…) Six months later, in the spring of 2004, I began to make pictures of the production and consumption of energy in the United States. I wanted to photograph the relationship between American society and the American landscape, and energy was the linchpin; this much I had gleaned from Cheshire.

Energy—how it was made, how it got used, and the ramifications of both—would therefore be my focus. For the next five years, I traveled the country making photographs at or near energy production sites: coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, hydroelectric, fuel cell, wind, and solar. It was a strange kind of tourism: energy tourism.

As it was the last day of the exhibit in Paris, you can always see it on the official website : whatisamericanpower.com. I look forward to reading your opinion. In any case, enjoy !

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