This ongoing body of work explores the vast Mississippi River floodplain, around the region known as The American Bottom. The name derived nearly 100 years ago, encompasses the land that skirts the Mississippi River from Alton, Illinois and travels south to the mouth of the Kaskaskia River. This approximately 65 mile stretch of lowland embodies an incredible diversity- though this is often hard to see. This is a landscape along the Middle Mississippi River is flat and unremarkable to the quick glance. It is with repeated encounters- walking this land over time and through the seasons- that the complexity and layered histories reveal themselves.
This lowland geography was formerly occupied by the Native American Mississippian people— Indigenous Mound Builders. Later, the influence of French settlers, farming practices, industrial growth and the companion company towns, dramatically affected the landscape.The force of the muddy Mississippi River cannot be underestimated in this region. Regular flooding of the land has created both some of the most fertile agricultural soil to be found, but it has also caused a regular cycle of destruction and regeneration. This is a landscape sturdy and resilient; it is a land continually ripped bare, altered by natural as well as human-made forces. This space is as complex and enigmatic as the history it has endured.
The American Bottom Project is an ongoing collaborative project. Jesse Vogler and Mathew Fluharty originally conceived of the project and Jennifer Colten joined later, each person brings something unique to the ongoing project with Jennifer Colten focusing on the photography side amongst many things. We have continued to exhibit the work in galleries and alternative public sites. We publish The American Bottom Gazette, and actively seek ways to place our writing and photographs within the social, cultural and civic spaces of the American Bottom community.