Author(s): Alec Soth
Evolving from a series of road trips along the Mississippi River, leading American photographer Alec Soth’s by now legendary book Sleeping by the Mississippi captures America’s iconic yet oft-neglected "third coast". Soth’s richly descriptive, large-format colour photographs present an eclectic mix of individuals, landscapes, and interiors. Sensuous in detail and raw in subject, Sleeping by the Mississippi – which was originally published by Steidl in 2004 – elicits a consistent mood of loneliness, longing and reverie. "In the book’s 46 ruthlessly edited pictures," writes Anne Wilkes Tucker, "Soth alludes to illness, procreation, race, crime, learning, art, music, death, religion, redemption, politics, and cheap sex." Like Robert Frank’s classic The Americans, Sleeping by the Mississippi merges a documentary style with poetic sensibility. The Mississippi is less the subject of the book than its organizing structure. Not bound by a rigid concept or ideology, the series is created out of a quintessentially American spirit of wanderlust. This book is one of the defining publications in the photo-book era.