Ordinary things here startle, while the extraordinary appears at perfect ease in the world. These pictures, made in the 1970s and 80s, offer a window into the beginning and breadth of Mitch Epstein's career. Most of these photographs are previously unpublished--culled from 15 years of work that addresses the theme of American recreation. Epstein's interpretation of leisure in the United States is characteristically subtle, ranging and sharp-witted. In Recreation, teenage girls abandon a baby to fondle a snake; children sleep naked on a car in an open campground--people stake their private ground in public, if only for a moment, during which Epstein's camera finds them. Gesture gives many of these photographs their pulse: tender hand, strained shoulder, swiveled hip. It isn't the fact of thirteen year olds smoking that will astound viewers, but the grace and knowledge in the young fingers that hold the cigarettes. Epstein's wit is laced with compassion, as he turns these rituals of boredom and beauty, excess and denial, alienation and possibility into a distillation of modern America.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Mitch Epstein devotes this Recreation book to many of his unpublished photos and they are presented in an impressively large format, nearly 16.5 inches wide by 10.75 deep, but I found this huge format rather unsettling because it became apparent to me that many of the sixty-six images lack the kind of detail that would benefit from this large page size. On the other hand there are many photos that are saturated in visual detail and clearly work in this almost mini-poster format. Plate forty-two, West Side Highway, New York City, 1977 showing a semi naked man resting on a sun-lounger near a parked Cadillac on some vacant ground with the Twin Towers in the background or plate sixty-six, Buena Vista, Colorado, 1988 with two happy model train fans surrounded by a diorama of tracks, houses and fake mountains are just two that will visually grab you. I thought it was unfortunate though that this kind creativity does not extend to all the photos.
Wonderful collection of images by Mitch Epstein in a very large format book. This is a look at America in the 1980's and continues the tradition of Eggleston and Shore. Worthwhile addition if you enjoy color / road trip style photography.
This was what American people used to look like, at play, at ease, and in color. In fact, Epstein is very well on par with Sternfeld, Shore, and Eggelston (a peer of them all, really...) and working in 35mm, his compositions exceed all of theirs in youthful fluidity and spontaneous grace.
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