Mitch Epstein.A new history of photography

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7 November 2015

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Mitch Epstein


            Mitch Epstein acknowledged widely as one of the most distinguished art photographers around the globe, however a whole survey of his art is yet to be published. Mitch Epstein, who is the color photography pioneer and has been making films, photographic books and also pictures for around 35 years. From 1990’s the Vietnam pictures present the artist’s distinctive balance of nuanced wit and formal rigor; and they are clear illustration of what detractor Joanna Lehan refers to Epstein’s “jaw-dropping color use.” Epstein photographs also are a significant sign in Epstein’s progression as a photographer, a link between Epstein’s early street artistic work and also his huge format work to appear (Moore et al, 2010).

            The pictures in the display are a lyrical odyssey during post war Vietnam. Photographs by Epstein depicts that under beauty there lies violence while under the war remnants is a society struggling with continued censorship and new freedoms. Mitch Epstein visited Vietnam where he made six trips there when the nation began opening its borders around 1992 and 1995 to the outsiders following two decades of separation. He worked together on a book with radical Vietnamese novelist where he was able to get access to the nation that a small number of outsiders had. However, in 1995 Epstein learned that he would be requires to hand over his pictures to the government of Vietnam for censorship. Epstein ended the collaboration due to artistic freedom and his book was published by means of a text by the Vietnamese artist. Epstein photographs are up to now virtually hidden in the nation from which they surfaced, except through the intelligentsia that were responsible in smuggling in the book (Frizot, 1998).

            The exhibition enlightens an indispensable point in the career of Epstein. The method of the artist became more painterly and deliberate in Vietnam. He revived and mastered the life which was at standstill. His sluggish, gradually formalist approach obviously resulted to 8x 10 view camera that he uses now. Vietnam also marked a new period whereby politics indirectly would, yet considerably have an effect on Epstein’s artistic work. Epstein’s next works all suggest a keen sense of community’s intrigues, just like the Vietnam photographs do. In Vietnam, Family business, American power and The city, Epstein delicately depicts that power of a nation, a patriarch or a city leaves its mark on the public landscape and also in the private lives. In America also Epstein continued with his art of photography where he travelled across the whole nation, making the photographs not just of wind turbines, oil refineries and nuclear reactors, but also of solar ovens, electric chairs and gas stations (Moore et al, 2010).

            New work being carried out by Epstein is a sequence of photographs of idiosyncratic trees inhabiting the New York City. These pictures depict the significance of trees to the urban life and also their multifaceted relationship to their human correspondents. The cumulative significance of these photographs is to reverse the individual’s usual perception concerning their city. In this regard the trees do not function as background any longer, and instead control the architecture and human life around the world. Mitch Epstein’s work has influenced many people across the globe and therefore making his artistic work significant to the history of photography (Epstein, 2005).


Epstein, M. (2005). Recreation: American photographs 1973 – 1988 (1. ed.). Göttingen: Steidl.

Frizot, M. (1998). A new history of photography. Köln: Könemann.

Moore, K. D., Crump, J., & Rubinfien, L. (2010). Starburst: color photography in America 1970-1980. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz.

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