The Last Days of W
Photographs by Alec Soth
48 pages, 12 x18, color newsprint

The Presidential Inauguration is days away and I'm reading about past Inaugural addresses in the New Yorker, stressing out about layoffs at all magazines everywhere, feeling nervous, confused, dismayed, hopeful, hungry and amused at a sudden interest I'm developing in American history and politics. As usual, I waited until the last minute to think about this. After the intense joy and relief of election night, I wasn't quite ready to interpret every move, word, appointment and photograph of our soon-to-be president.

So now, a week before the Inauguration, I sit in my living room looking over The Last Days of W by photographer Alec Soth. Mr. Soth and Little Brown Mushroom published this nice big unbound newsprint selection immediately following election day. The book's title is the last line of a poem inside by Lester B. Morrison. Mr. Morrison's poem talks about the aftermath of the last 8 years--a kind of quiet, an almost boredom. I get it. I have an empty feeling looking at the empty spaces in Soth's photographs knowing the realities behind them are too enormous to process. He's gathered images from a decade of projects including the mortgage crisis in Stockton, California, mothers of Marines in Iraq, and the world's largest landfill. Moments of that old Weird America (tm) show up in some images--an awkward motivational Jesus poster, a papier maché terrorist, a prom king and queen in front of a mural of the Pyramids--but they're not sensational or grotesque or hilarious really. Everything kind of flattens out. Whether dawn or dusk, the book repeats a few times, wondering if this is The end, the beginning, or both. I'm not sure.

The Last Days of W is available directly from Little Brown Mushroom, at Spoonbill & Sugartown and other cool bookstores.

Comments (4)


The cover design reminds a little of "there will be blood" - I haven't seen one of these in person, wondering how the sample images you show here (pristine digital scans of large format) compare with the large, newsprint feel of the book. Seems like the design choice is also "last days of seeing photos in this print format."

Hm, I didn't even think about the possible meaning of printing this on newsprint... I was just like yay newsprint!, because I love it. It's cheap, fast and easy so maybe they just wanted to get it out asap. I suppose you could infer something about the media and politics.


love alex soth but I am bit against this loading of images with political context of the time although they were made without any clear connection. Ok its the last line of the poem and ok Alec Soth says himself that the medium of photography is limited but why do you make your work about something which it cannot really cover (the presidency and its failures) I don't see that on the pictures - sure anybody can interpret anything into anything but if the artists makes a statement like that it just reminds me of the way popcorn movies are titled -

Its a selling strategy but it deminishes the seriousness of the work. Popcorn photography or at least popcorn title I would call it.


I understand Soth's difficulties. After all, how do you photograph people who WEREN'T murdered by terrorists because of George Bush's policies? Who wants to look at pictures of the religious minorities in Afghanistan who DIDN'T die because of the toppling of the Taliban? Who wants to see the Marsh Arabs in their restored habitats in Iraq because of George Bush's "illegal war?" The millions who won't die because of his malaria and AIDS policies in Africa. Or all the women who weren't raped by Saddam's minions. How boring. Such pictures might also might force us to ask questions about the responsibilites of a powerful nation in a dangerous and otherwise leaderless world. Obama's learning about those hard questions every day it seems. If Guantanamo Bay is so obviously evil, why not close it RIGHT NOW? If rendition is so terrible, why not ban it RIGHT NOW? Yeah. Whatever.

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