Copia: Snapshots of Consumer Culture

by Wen Lee   |   September 7, 2011

Copia Checkout

How much do we shop? And what is it doing to us?

Award-winning photographer Brian Ulrich explores these questions in Copia, a project that is 10 years in the making. From 2001 to 2011, Ulrich traveled the world and captured images of contemporary consumer culture. 

The images are striking—familiar but also strange. The vast, colorful landscape of mega-stores. The overwhelming piles of stuff. The faces of shoppers who are completely surrounded and immersed. The loneliness of an abandoned mall that was once a shrine for frenzied consumerism.

Ulrich describes his inspiration for the project in a recent interview with TIME magazine: “[It] began as a simple curiosity: Were people out shopping in the months after Sept. 11th to follow a patriotic directive? It quickly dawned on me that the subject I began to explore was something a lot bigger; one historical, anthropological, ideological and indicative of American identity and psychology."

Copia, which means "plenty" in Latin, consists of three parts: "Retail," "Thrift," and "Dark Stores." The series is on exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art from August 2011 to January 2012.

To see more of the Copia series and Ulrich's other projects, visit his website: In addition, a new book of Ulrich's work has been released, entitled Is This Place Great or What.