Review: One Mississippi by Alec Soth


Book Reviews, Photobooks


Alec Soth’s One Mississippi was published as part of Nazraeli Press’ ongoing series One Picture Books. Strictly speaking, the name isn’t quite correct. There isn’t just one picture in the book, there are twelve: eleven reproductions and one original photograph, all previously unpublished. So “one picture” refers to the one original print you get with each book, the idea behind the series being that “anybody should be able to buy an original artwork” (source). (more)

I don’t know how many people will believe this, but I didn’t buy the book because of the print. It’s true, it’s nice to own an original signed print by Alec. But even though I am a collector at heart (I love owning “useless” things: I don’t own a microwave or a plasma screen TV or a good watch, but I do own a collection of amazing little tintypes, all bought for really cheap online, for example), the photography itself was way more important than that one print. In fact, when I received the book in the mail, I had already forgotten about it.

One Mississippi features photography taken in 1992, by a young Alec Soth (there’s a photo of him in the book, almost unrecognizable for those who are used to seeing the beard and the baseball cap), during a road trip down the Mississippi, from Minnesota to Memphis, Tennessee. I doesn’t seem as if there was a lot of time between 1992 and the time, about ten years later, when Sleeping by the Mississippi was published. But it does feel like a lot of time.

Of course, I know that on the internet people are only too eager to take anything, to interpret it their way and to then claim that Colberg said this or that, so let me make this clear: I didn’t mean that as a value statement. A future biographer will have to take the images in One Mississippi and in Sleeping by the Mississippi and figure out how the photographer got from the former to the latter. It won’t be an easy task, but if it’s done well, it’ll be a tremendous read (what do you know, I’m reviewing unwritten books already).

That’s the thrill of One Mississippi: You get to see the “early” Alec Soth, and you can try to see whether you can see today’s Alec Soth in the images already (if I told you whether you can or not, I’d take the fun away, so I won’t). Of course, you might also enjoy owning an original print, so you’ll have to get One Mississippi while it’s still available.

One Mississippi, photography by Alec Soth, 5 1/2 x 7 1/4, 16 pages, 11 four-color plates, 1 original print, Nazraeli Press, 2010