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Photographer: Mitch Epstein
Publisher: Steidl
Publication date: 2003
Print length: 294 pages
Mitch Epstein was 48 and living in New York when his mother called him about the fire. On a windy August night in 1999, two 12-year-old boys had broken into a boarded-up apartment building owned by Epstein's father in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and, just for the hell of it, set it ablaze. The fire had spread, engulfing a nineteenth-century Catholic church, then a city block. The $15 million lawsuit brought by the church against the senior Mr. Epstein threatened to unravel his life. Faced with the family crisis, Mitch went home to help, possessed by the question of how his father, once owner of the largest furniture and appliance store in western New England and former Chamber of Commerce Businessman of the Year in 1970, ended up a character out of an Arthur Miller tragedy. What resulted is Family Business, an epic work about the demise of a Jewish immigrant dynasty. It traces the parallel fall of a New England town from industrial giant to drug-dealing capital. Epstein has combined formally rigorous, large-scale photographs with fluid video clips to re-create his father's universe. The book's four chapters--"store," "property," "town," "home"--include photographs, storyboards, video stills, archival materials and text, resulting in a mixed-media novel that asks how the American Dream failed his father and his generation of men.
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