Across the length of 2016, the photographer Mitch Epstein — known for making careful large-format images that draw rich meaning out of places and objects — arranged to visit the living and working spaces of some of the monumental figures we lost this year. The goal was to arrive not long after each person’s death, in those days when a person’s spirit can still seem palpable somewhere among their rooms and their things — as in his photograph of the writer Jim Harrison’s studio, where the items on a bedside table seem as if they were set down only moments ago.
As he took in each space and created these subtle, multilayered photographs, Epstein was especially struck by the number of rooms that felt like places of freedom, with each figure creating his or her own unique interior world. “They’re not just spaces,” he says. “They’re actually sanctuaries. That’s the word that comes to mind.” TEXT BY NITSUH ABEBE
Mitch Epstein is a fine-art photographer based in New York City. His forthcoming book, “Rocks and Clouds,” will be published by Steidl in the spring.