When I was a student at Cooper Union, my teacher, Garry Winogrand, taught me how to read pictures, which, in turn, altered how I made them. In 1978, at the age of twenty-six, I was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant, and a year later, had my first solo exhibition at Light Gallery. In 1980, I received a grant from the New York State Council for the Arts.
In the 1980s I shifted my focus to film and went abroad. I worked in India on documentary and feature films as a cinematographer, set designer and producer. By leaving the United States, I gained insight into it; I learned to look at my own country as a foreigner would, even as I understood it as only a native could. Working in a different medium opened my mind to new possibilities of what photography could do.
In 1996, W.W. Norton & Co. published my book, Vietnam: A Book of Changes. In 1997, 1999, and 2001, I taught photography at Bard College. In 2001, powerHouse published my book, The City. Thereafter, Steidl has been my sole publisher, having published four books: Family Business (2003); Recreation: American Photographs 1973-1988 (2005); Mitch Epstein: Work (2007); and American Power (2009). Family Business won the Kraszna-Krausz Photography Book Award, and American Power the Gold Medal Deutscher Fotobuchpreis.
I was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2002. In 2008, I was awarded the Berlin Prize as a Mundheim Fellow in the Visual Arts at the American Academy in Berlin. Again, leaving America helped me see it more clearly–which was crucial, as I was in the final phase of work on American Power, a project about American energy, landscape, and culture. During my six months at the Academy, I made a photographic series on Berlin sites that contain layers of historical meaning, which Steidl will publish as a monograph, Berlin (Spring, 2011).
Exhibition highlights include a featured multi-media presentation of Family Business at the Arles Photography Festival (2004); and solo exhibitions at FOAM in Amsterdam (2007), the Kunstmuseum Bonn (Fall, 2010), the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris (spring 2011), and the Walther Collection in Ulm (Summer 2011). My work has been collected by major museums, including New York’s Metropolitan Museum, MOMA, and The Whitney; SFMOMA in San Francisco, and the Getty Museum in LA.
Visit Mitch Epstein’s website.