|State of the Union, Photographs by Faye Robson. |
Published by Hatje Cantz, 2011.
Reviewed by Faye Robson
Mitch Epstein State of the Union
Photographs by Mitch Epstein
Hatje Cantz, 2011. Hardbound. 120 pp., 59 color illustrations, 10-1/4x14-3/4".
State of the Union has the scope and character of a photographic 'Great American Novel' (even if it does not trumpet its status as such) and it's hard to avoid the description 'novelistic' when turning the pages of this handsome, thematically substantial volume. The comparison is somewhat specious, in that authorship here is the business of publisher Hatje Cantz and the Kunstmuseum Bonn - this is, strictly speaking, an exhibition catalogue rather than a monograph - as much as it is of the photographer. Strictly speaking (again) these photos also constitute two chronologically distinct bodies of work rather than one long narrative. However, the description seems to suit work that is as complex and eloquent, and as sensitive to the shifting relations of individual, social and natural scale, as this photography is.
Epstein himself remarks in the engaging interview with Stefan Gronert, that he is working in 'a tradition of projects that address the idea of nation, and specifically America as a nation.' The two photographic projects presented form a coherent, intelligent overview of the artist's engagement with American life, both from a street-level, intimate perspective (more frequently in the earlier Recreation series) and from a wider, more emphatically detached point of view (in American Power). These series have been published previously as discrete monographs, but this volume makes plain how the artist's distinctive vision has persisted - and evolved - over time.
Faye Robson is an editor of illustrated books, currently based in London, UK. She has worked on photobooks for publishers including Aperture Foundation, New York and Phaidon Press, London.