DavidFreese
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Mississippi River: Headwaters and Heartland to Delta and Gulf

America's most important and iconic river has had many names: from the Ojibwe word misiziibi, meaning "a great river spread wide over the land," to the more familiar Mighty Mississippi, Old Blue, and Ol' Man River. In Mississippi River: Headwaters and Heartland to Delta and Gulf, the third book of my trilogy on North American waters, we take a captivating visual journey from the river's source at Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota 2,552 miles south to the Gulf of Mexico.

The photographs—from the ground and from the air—open our eyes to encompass the river's diversity and complexity as seen from its cities, towns, and hamlets, its industrial sites and farmland, its historic buildings and sanctuaries for wildlife, all the while revealing the constant flow of goods, grain, and fuel up and down the nation's major shipping artery. The images also illustrate the ongoing dangers posed by increased flooding and the protective measures historically taken by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers in trying to fulfill an impossible task: of keeping a restless and often swollen and unruly river in check.

There is great pressure on America's biggest river in the way we manage and treat it. Too often there are negative environmental consequences to our way of life, ranging from the loss of habitat affecting millions of birds and other wildlife to poisonous runoff from pesticides and herbicides on agricultural fields. As one encounters the river, one must also remember that, throughout its vast watershed, the Mississippi was initially the great river for native peoples who were systematically removed from their homelands; and, as we journey downriver, one is also reminded of the dark legacy of slavery, especially in the South.

The Misiziibi reveals America's complicated past and present and hints at its future like no other river. American history truly bends and turns in its waters. To complement the photographic journey, acclaimed author Simon Winchester provides one of the most compelling short histories of the Mississippi yet written, and Sarah Kennel, Curator of Photography at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, places Freese's images into the canon of landscape photography as a magnificent body of work that documents, critiques, honors, and sanctifies America's most treasured river. The book concludes with a provocative afterword and extensive notes on many of the photographs.

 

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