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American Power triumphs…

So Mitch Epstein has won the Prix Pictet with his epic work American Power. While it would be churlish to begrudge Mitch the prize for such an impressive body of large format fine art photography, I am disappointed that the body of work which most impressed me (The Hell of Copper by Nyaba Leon Ouedraogo ) did not win and I agree with Sean O’Hagan of the Guardian that Bendikson’s Kibera images should have made the shortlist.
What is really worth seeing is how Mitch Epstein is using the web to create an interactive slideshow of his work, together with ‘backstory’ elements and observations on American Power, with it’s obvious connotations both of American energy consumption and American might. Click here to experience this way of displaying photography and then compare it with the traditional web gallery.


Posted by author: Genevieve Sioka
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10 thoughts on “American Power triumphs…

  • Looking at this made me think about how photographs speak. Ouedraogo’s work calls out to me with a passion that shows in his use of colour and copper tones to portray the lives of those young people. I feel as if he comes alongside me.
    Yes – Epstein’s work is impressive and the interactive slideshow seems to leap out at me. It made me feel dizzy though because my eyes felt swamped by it after a while!

  • Yes, it was predictable that the Prix Pictet wouldn’t be won by a Burkinabé – someone from Burkina Faso. Having recently come back from that country I know how amazing it would have been for Burkina if Ouedraogo had won the competition. In a country with practically zero natural resources and a GDP six times smaller than the annual turnover of a well-known UK supermarket chain, pride is still a highly valuable currency.
    But Mitch Epstein’s work is extraordinary and monumental. Most importantly, it is about us, and it was made for us. His images are beautiful but also demand to be seen. Looking at his photographs one can’t help feeling pretty inadequate about our own levels of energy consumption. Information and expression, they go hand in hand in his images. They are visually interesting, elicit emotions and at the same time make you reflect. That’s photography.
    For me, the most inspiring aspect of Epstein’s portfolio is how he managed to translate a fairly abstract concept – energy production and consumption – into compelling visual products.
    Sad as I am that Oueadraogo didn’t win the competition, I’m not surprised that the prize went to Epstein.

  • I must comment on the presentation style:
    The “clever” slide show was a triumph of style over usability. The traditional web gallery was a particularly inept version. No more than 5/10 for either of them. The one thing to be said for showing the “clever” one was that you have to try things, or progress is not made. But for now – too clever by half.

    • I totally agree Stefan. The swirling Flash presentatton is gratuitous and adds very little substance to Epstein’s images. It’s a kind of gloryfied geotagging done just for the sake of it.
      If anything, the animation and interface trivialise Epestein’s work. Which is a shame because his images a laden with powerful meaning.

  • I have to agree with you there Stefan. I wrote something as an immediate response but decided to let it settle for a while, or until I stopped feeling giddy? Hahahaha
    ‘Let me off I’m getting motion sickness!
    I think that’s a problem with Flash it encourages you to do things just because you can, and so easily too.
    You end up with a serious subject being presented like NASA astronaut training or the latest Disney World ride.
    Not for me thank you very much.’

  • FWIW I thought the ‘interactive’ version fitted nicely with the idea of power flowing around the country – some of the transitions were a bit abrupt for my taste, but they did give an energised feel to the presentation, and there was always the option to progress through them slowly. It also speaks to the headlong rush to use up the worlds resources.
    On the other hand I thought Stefan was being generous in awarding the traditional gallery 5/10 – there wasn’t even a ‘next’ button that I could see

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