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    imageMagical Urbanism, a website about urbanization, design and social change, is maintained by Mike Ernst. I'm an urban planner and designer based in New York City. I graduated from the Masters of City Planning program at UC Berkeley.

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    American Cosumerism: Copia by Brian Ulrich

    The photographs of Brian Ulrich

    It’s a feeling many Americans know. That itching notion at the grocery store, surrounded by produce imported from Chile, a numbness when buying an absurdly cheap electronic device from China at Best Buy, or the blank stare ahead while standing in line at Target with dozens of surveillance cameras peering down at you. It’s the feeling that we’ve auctioned off something essential for our low, low prices; it’s the sensation that all this consumer choice is an illusion, that our choices in things that really matter are much more limited.

    The photographs of Brian Ulrich

    Chicago-based photographer Brian Ulrich is a whiz at capturing those moments. His ‘Copia’ series documents the recklessness of American consumerism. He took to the malls of America after citizens were encouraged to boost the U.S. economy through shopping after 9/11. His photographs featuring people are a constant stream of blank stares and bored consumption.

    The photographs of Brian Ulrich

    The images are not meant to mock the subjects, but to act as mirrors. As Ulrich says in his artist statement:

    Since we ultimately see ourselves in these images, I hope to elicit compassion and empathy for those depicted by creating formal images that are elegant and beautiful… The large-scale photographs allow the viewer to stop and notice with a distanced perspective familiar places and things.

    The photographs of Brian Ulrich

    In contrast, his images of products hint that the absurdity of our purchases. Somehow we’ve managed to put a price on everything, including patriotism.

    The photographs of Brian Ulrich

    Even death comes across as something we understand through consumption, captured brilliantly in the above image.

    While Ulrich is hardly the first to explore the isolation of America’s consumerist society, he is particularly adapt at capturing some of the more egregious extremes.

    Ulrich’s work is on exhibit at the Robert Koch Gallery, 49 Geary at Kearny in San Francisco, through September 2nd.

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    4 responses to “American Cosumerism: Copia by Brian Ulrich”

    1. Vince says:

      Not an original angle. A little too easy to take pictures of store shelves and describe it as an indictment of a culture. It’s products on shelves. Something found throughout North America, Europe and Asia. The pictures don’t carry the statement, the words do.

    2. […] (Morgan Stanley’s chief global economist adds his voice to the growing choir of doomsayers, predicting heartbreak for employees and consumers throughout the high-cost, developed world. His thesis is simple: growth in the world economy has come not from soaring wages but from bubbalicious home prices, soaring corporate profits, American consumerism and low-cost third-world labour. As jobs continue to stream offshore and the markets pray for a “soft landing”, recession may be the only tune this chorus is willing to sing…) […]

    3. I totally disagree with Vince on this. The average American consumer is driven to buy things by fear. Y2k they sent all these people out to buy this software and when the clock struck midnight nothing happened. The terro alert constantly going up and down, thats why I dont watch the news. They drive you by fear. Go out and get cases and cases of bottled water, and ice. Make sure you have shovels and on and on it goes. I think this deserves a lot of merit because maybe it isnt to the extremes that are portrayed in these photos but it does happen.

    4. Sammy Giamanico says:

      why don’t you take photos of the rich people’s stuff!