The passengers of the Mississippi

Mélanie Desriaux


United States

Most of the adventures recorded in this book really occurred; one or two were experiences of my own, the rest those of boys who were schoolmates of mine. Huck Finn is drawn from life; Tom Sawyer also, but not from an individual — he is a combination of the characteristics of three boys whom I knew, and therefore belongs to the composite order of architecture. The odd superstitions touched upon were all prevalent among children and slaves in the West at the period of this story — that is to say, thirty or forty years ago. Although my book is intended mainly for the entertainment of boys and girls, I hope it will not be shunned by men and women on that account, for part of my plan has been to try to pleasantly remind adults of what they once were themselves, and of how they felt and thought and talked, and what queer enterprises they sometimes engaged in. Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

The Frontier is a limit zone. Also, it’s one of the historical myths of United States. In the 15th century, the word « Frontier » was borrowed from French by English, to mean the region of a country that faces an another country. In the North America, « Frontier » means a region of a civilized borders territory. It’s a pioneer front. This limit zone has holded a strong role in the American imaginary and for its identity. Since the New Topographics exhibition, Robert Adams notified in The New West: Landscape along the Colorado Front Range, the necessity for an iconographic renewal of the Frontier. This limit zone was less a geographical division between East and West, that the meeting point between savagery and civilization. The photography’s purpose was now to reconcile us with a wild nature. The passengers of the Mississippi is the following on from my photographic research. Indeed, it’s the pursuit of The Conquest. I have gone along the Mississippi River from St. Louis to New Orleans. The sinuosity and the overflows of the Mississippi River reveals the illusion of a border and symbolizes migration. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain – symbol of this America imprint of freedom but also of conservatism – allowed me to made my itinerary, and to document the persistence of the border and the territory issues. Between fiction and autobiography, the adventures of Tom Sawyer reveals the identity quest of a young hero, grown up through the Mark Twain writing ; a writing that operates a shift from fiction to reality. For me, to see is to be able to imagine. So, I tried to make links, to create analogies and to elaborate a storytelling between reality and fiction. Each project is for me as a ritual initiation to other worlds and otherness.

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