Is This Place Great or What

Photographs by Brian Ulrich
Essay by Juliet B. Schor Copublished with the Cleveland Museum of Art

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11 1/4 x 9 3/4 144 pages, 95 four-color images Hardcover 978-1-59711-192-8 Fall 2011 Designed by Andrew Sloat
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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 in the midst of 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.

Brian Ulrich (born in North Port, New York, 1971) holds an MFA in photography from Columbia College Chicago. He has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego. In 2009, he was the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. He is represented by Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago; Julie Saul, New York; and Robert Koch Gallery, San Francisco.

Juliet B. Schor is a professor of sociology at Boston College. Schor’s book, Consumerism and Its Discontents, was published in January 2011.

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