Mississippi on view in photographsPublished 10:55am Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Revisit Mark Twain’s Mississippi through the latest photo exhibit at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center. The show includes 30 contemporary black and white silver gelatin prints by photographer Chris Faust, shown paired with cyanotypes of the same views by 19th-Century photographer Henry Peter Bosse.
The exhibit, which opened Friday and runs through October 26, has special significance to New York Mills. The town is uniquely situated on the cusp of the continental divide, where waters drain south via the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico or north to the Hudson Bay.
From 1882 to 1892, Bosse mapped and photographed the Upper Mississippi, helping create the most accurate map of the upper Mississippi to date, which made the design of a navigational channel, bridges, locks and levees possible for the Army Core of Engineers. 100 years later, Faust spent years researching, traveling and re-photographing images from the sites and viewpoint of Bosse.
Faust’s challenges included limited access to materials, officials that didn’t recognize the importance of preserving Bosse’s work, and photographs that have gone missing. Eventually Faust obtained a set of aerial photographs before locks and dams were built, a copy of one of three of Bosse’s original photos albums and copies of original maps.
“In comparing original photos to new photographs, some locations were very obvious,” said Faust. “But some you didn’t know if you were looking up or down river, areas were overgrown, bluffs were missing.”
“Part of the interest is how cities went from 1880s industrial milling towns to post industrial cities,” said Luke Erickson, Minnesota Director of the Foundation for the Exhibiting of Photography and curator of the show. “Just seeing the river and skylines is a commentary on environmentalism, positives and negatives of development.”
“Photography is one of my favorite art mediums,” said Cultural Center Executive Director Jamie Robertson.
Faust is a prolific landscape photographer and teacher in St. Paul, Minnesota. He earned a BA in biology and a MS in Educational Media from St. Cloud State University. He has found 50 of Bosse’s sites, and is seeking funding for further travel and research on the project. In addition to pairing of ten old and new images photographed from the same vantage point, Faust has included 20 additional contemporary images of the Mississippi. All images have been shot on film using a Hasselblad or Graflex 4-by-5 format camera.
Bosse’s images are cyanotypes, a simple and low cost printing process popular with engineers of the era enabling large-scale copies of their work with a cyan hue, referred to as blueprints. His images have been exhibited at top galleries, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Getty Museum and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
During the run of the exhibit, the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center will host a concert by Charlie Maguire featuring songs inspired by the Mississippi River and the state of Minnesota on October 18, and a documentary film about the river, “Twilight of the Mississippi” on October 25. Both the exhibit and the concert are funded by the Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage fund through the Viking Library System.
The photography exhibit, concert and film are open to the public and free of charge.