Published by Aperture and the Cleveland Museum of Art, 2011
144 pages. 95 Plates. Hardcover. Essay by Juliet B Schor
Is This Place Great or What presents photographer Brian Ulrich’s decade-long exploration of the shifting tectonic plates of American consumer society. Ulrich photographs the architectural legacies of a retail-driven economy amid collapse—shopping malls on the brink of demolition, empty big box stores, the fraying surfaces of a shopping-obsessed culture. Interspersed with these images are a series of clear-eyed yet sympathetic portraits—teenaged shoppers lost in reverie over a new pair of shoes, thrift-store mavens determined to find the best deal possible, and families desperately in search of that perfect purchase. Cinematic and utterly engrossing, these portraits trace a palpable trajectory from irrational exuberance to debt-laden hangover. Both personal and sociologically astute, Ulrich has successfully managed to get under the skin of the current economic crisis, providing a sobering document of the American consumer psyche in the first decade of the twenty-first century.
Is This Place Great or What accompanied an exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art with support from Fred and Laura Bidwell.