Epstein began this series immediately after college and continued it over a decade on various road trips across the country—from Las Vegas to Ybor City, from Holyoke to New Orleans. The majority of this body of work has never been exhibited or published before.
In the seventies, photography was at a very different place in its history. It was pre-surveillance, pre-digital, pre-Homeland Security and, people were more charmed by the presence of a photographer walking the city streets and parks with a camera in hand, taking photos. In this sense, innocence contributed to the shape of these pictures—Epstein’s own photographic innocence and a cultural innocence that made it possible to comfortably approach nearly any situation with a camera. It was a time when vestiges of cultural regionalism could be found and the path of color photography itself was uncharted.
Epstein has said that he slowly came to realize that “pleasure” was at the heart of these pictures. On the one hand, there is his own pleasure in the abundant possibilities of what might be photographable, and on the other, the sometimes peculiar and complicated pleasure that he captured his fellow Americans pursuing before the mass marketing and commodification of leisure.
Epstein originally took these images as Kodochrome slides. Wishing to make long lasting vibrant prints that also captured the spatial quality of his slides, Epstein turned to the dye transfer process. At the time, because of the high cost of production, he could only afford to do a dozen prints out of hundreds of images.
The exhibition presents twenty-five 16×20 inch dye transfer photographs. These 25 works represent a complete dye transfer portfolio published in an edition of 10, printed by Guy Stricherz and Irene Malli. Stricherz and Malli are two of just a few worldwide printers who continue to use the dye transfer process, one whose materials are no longer manufactured. The richness and depth of color in dye transfers are unmatched by any other photographic process.