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Mark Twain-inspired photo exhibit opening

Submitted photo A photograph by contemporary photographer Chris Faust, of St. Paul, shows the same scene from the Upper Mississippi River as a photo by 19th century photographer Henry Peter Bosse.

Historic and contemporary photographs of the Upper Mississippi River will be featured in the main floor gallery of the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center starting Friday, Sept. 6 and continuing through Saturday, Oct. 26.

The exhibit, called “Revisiting Twain’s Mississippi,” will include 30 contemporary black-and-white silver gelatin prints by photographer Chris Faust, paired with cyanotypes of the same views by 19th century photographer Henry Peter Bosse.

The exhibit will be open at no cost to visitors. A reception and lecture on the exhibit will be held Saturday, Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. Faust will be honored at the event and will make a presentation at 7:30.

Faust is a prolific landscape photographer who lives in St.  Paul. He began his photography career as a medical photographer and continued working as a technical photographer and graphic artist at the University of Minnesota.

He is best known for his panoramic landscape photographs. From 1990-1996, he created a series of black-and-white images of new suburban developments in Minnesota that depicted new structures and spaces not fully formed or inhabited by people. A frequent theme in his photographs is the intersection of human beings with nature and places where the two interact in provocative ways.

Bosse’s cyanotypes are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery, the Getty Museum and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, to name a few. 

From 1882 to 1892, Bosse travelled the Upper Mississippi River Valley as a member of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, while engaged in a serious and historic undertaking as a photographer. His photographs helped create the most accurate map of the Upper Mississippi to date, which made the design of bridges, locks and levees possible.

Ultimately, Bosse published “Views on the Mississippi River between Minneapolis, Minn and St. Louis, Mo., 1883-1891.” This volume contained large format cyanotypes, printed using an oval mask, each titled by Bosse in hand-written ink. Bosse’s work was shown at the historic World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago, a turning point in the history of photography, to great critical success and much fanfare.

Some 100 years later, Bosse’s navigational maps in hand, Faust carefully re-photographed the same views as Bosse, from exactly the same sites, aided by modern GPS coordinates and the help of the Army Corps navigational maps.

Ultimately, Faust’s images yield no further scientific information, but by framing the familiar in novel ways, they make for a revelatory experience. 

The exhibit is sponsored by Viking Library System and the Council of Regional Public Library System Administrators, presented in collaboration with the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography and the cultural center. 

During the run of the exhibit, the cultural center will host a free concert by Charlie Maguire featuring songs inspired by the Mississippi River and the state of Minnesota. The concert will be held on Friday, Oct. 18, at 7:30 p.m. and is sponsored by Viking Library System. 

Both the exhibit and the concert were funded with money from Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage fund. 

The Mississippi River 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 to the Gulf of Mexico or north to the Hudson Bay. A monument situated on the divide describes the geological and political forces that have shaped New York Mills as a result of its location.