On Thursday, Prix Pictet named Mitch Epstein’s American Power, a stunning series on fossil fuels and renewable energy use in the U.S. this year’s winner of the group’s third photography prize for environmental sustainability. The theme of this year’s competition was growth, which correlated with Prix Pictet’s mission to “search for photographs that communicate powerful messages of global environmental significance.”
After being inspired by photographing a struggling small town in Ohio, Epstein embarked on a five-year, 25-state project to capture how fossil fuel production affected people’s lives and their ecosystem.
“I photographed a consumerist society inured to the consequences of unbridled consumption,” Epstein said in a statement. “Many living in the shadows of power plants despaired their polluted water and air, but did not have the economic resources to relocate. Growth no longer meant progress, but self-destruction.”
Epstein not only captured the effects of the U.S.’s decades-old reliance on coal and oil, but also photographed a new generation of cleaner technologies – including wind, biotech and solar – to show, in Epstein’s words, “that a healthier, more economical and compassionate way of life is possible.”
Additional information on the Prix Pictet Photography prize, as well as artists shortlisted for this year, can be found on www.prixpictet.com. American Power has been released as a monograph, published by Steidl. Epstein’s work can be accessed at his website at www.mitchepstein.net.