Mitch Epstein

Village Voice, Picture This, Best Photo Books of 2003, January 12th, 2004

Family Business

By Vince Aletti

Mitch Epstein...understands that personal history-in his case, a tangled web of guilt, ambition, resentment, mistrust, frustration, and failure-doesn't exist in a vacuum. "How had my father, once owner of the largest furniture and appliance store in western New England and the former Chamber of Commerce Businessman of the Year in 1974, ended up a character out of an Arthur Miller tragedy?" Epstein asks in his introduction. The answer involves rundown real estate, industrial decline, white flight, interracial misunderstanding, and ordinary family tensions aggravated by a frayed business partnership. Epstein, who worked with both still and video cameras over a period of three years, begins by recording his father's going-out-of-business sales and tenant problems, but finds himself drawn into the bigger picture-a network of associations that radiates through the entire town. All this is grounded, finally, in family, and most particularly in a series of portraits of Epstein's father, a proud, determined breadwinner who puts his business before his family and often seems on the verge of losing both. Epstein's sympathy for him is strained, but the measured respect and tenderness he brings to the pictures of his dad suffuse the entire book.