In his new series, Mitch Epstein investigates the meaning of time by photographing rocks that last millions of years and clouds that evaporate before our eyes. These large-format black-and-white pictures examine society’s complex relationship to nature, a theme Epstein has explored in previous work, including his acclaimed tree pictures (New York Arbor, 2013).
The way the sky and ground can mirror one another intrigued ancient Chinese painters, as well as modern earthwork artists and the Surrealists, all of whom inspired this project. Epstein draws attention to the sculptural quality of New York City’s clouds, bedrock, and architecture—which, at its most elemental, is made from rock. Cloud wedges engulf a cargo ship, buildings recall constructivist paintings, and erratics are imposing elders in the middle of a park or sidewalk. Rocks and Clouds suggests society’s inability to control time and tame nature. While it seems impossible to make a fresh picture of New York, Epstein gives us a surprising portrait of it.