American Cosumerism: Copia by 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.
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 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.
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.
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.