Home » Art & Culture Program » Concourse A Gallery » Empire

Empire

Martin Hyers and William Mebane

October, 2014 - August, 2015

If two strangers approached you and asked if they could photograph all of your personal possessions, would you let them? Martin Hyers and Will Mebane posed this very question to people throughout the U.S. as they sought to create a photographic time capsule of American life.

Between 2004 and 2007, the two began a collaboration, and a series of road trips, that led them into a broad spectrum of ordinary environments, both public and private. These spaces were occupied not only by individual characters, but by their ‘stuff’ as well. The photographs of these interiors convey both an intimacy and objectivity; the viewer may at once feel like a voyeur and a forensic scientist.

And while the selection of items might at first appear arbitrary, Hyers and Mebane were methodical about documenting their subjects from a uniform distance of one meter using two hand-held 4 x 5 cameras. Strobe lights expose each setting, eliminating any sentiment or value that we might otherwise have brought to them. While such qualities urge us to see these things as artifacts from a moment in time, we have lived in that time, and its relics and reverberations continue to shape our surroundings a decade later.