Past Performing Arts

Erik Friedlander and Mitch Epstein: American Power

Power plant spews smoke near a playground

“These pictures question the human conquest of nature at any cost.”—Mitch Epstein on American Power

Cellist and composer Erik Friedlander returns in a new collaboration with photographer Mitch Epstein that examines how we coexist with our diverse sources of energy and power. Performed live, Friedlander’s haunting score illuminates a series of images drawn from Epstein’s acclaimed volume American Power, whose focus Epstein says was “to photograph the relationship between American society and the American landscape, and energy was the linchpin.” These potent images include the pivotal photographs that first inspired this thematic series, which he took during a trip along the Ohio River Valley.

To shape American Power for the stage, Epstein shares anecdotes about the people and towns he visited across the country while photographing where citizens live next door to their sources of power: from fossil fuel, nuclear, and hydroelectric to wind, solar, and other forms of alternative energy. He supplies telling details on his encounters with the Department of Homeland Security, environmental contamination, corporate impenetrability, and our culture of excess, while also revealing how these experiences led him to reconsider the artist’s role in a country teetering between collapse and transformation. Together, Erik Friedlander’s evocative music and Mitch Epstein’s stories and images avoid easy polemic, preferring to lay bare and investigate notions of power—whether electrical or political. They ask: who has it, what do they do with it, and how does that affect other people?

Power plant spews smoke near a playground

Cheshire, Ohio 2004   photo by Mitch Epstein

Power plant near high school football field

Poca High School and Amos Plant, West Virginia 2004   photo by Mitch Epstein

Smoke from chimneys

Gavin Coal Powe Plant, Cheshire, Ohio 2004   photo by Mitch Epstein

Hoover dam and Lake Mead

Hoover Dam and Lake Mead 2007   photo by Mitch Epstein

A refinery with the American flag

Carson Refinery, California 2007   photo by Mitch Epstein

Epstein and fiedlander

Erik Friedlander (left), Mitch Epstein (right)   Photo by Lee Satkowski


Doris Duke Charitable Foundation



Puffin Foundation West, Ltd.



The Blackwell



Greater Columbus Arts Council

The Columbus Foundation

Nationwide Foundation

Ohio Arts Council


Past Performing Arts

Erik Friedlander and Mitch Epstein: American Power