Ross Mantle – Misplaced Fortunes
Sleeper Studios 2021
Edition of 500
164 pages, 86 plates, printed by Kopa in Lithuania
Title Guide printed by Conveyor in Jersey City
Hard cover, smyth sewn with a two-color foil stamp
22.86 x 15.87 cm
Weaving together a tapestry of photographs, original and found text, historic imagery, and typographic symbols, Misplaced Fortunes operates as a literal and metaphoric treasure hunt. Using the myth of General Edward Braddock’s pay-chest as a starting point, this lyrical book navigates three centuries of history, legend and lies to explore America’s colonialist ambitions, its obsession with progress, and the stories we choose to tell about it.
Rooted in documentary photographic traditions, these images are both objective and enigmatic. Through careful sequencing, symbolic connections are made, clues are left and a narrative path is forged. Images of holes, X’s, unintended cairns, remnants, and monuments are strewn throughout the sequence, constituting a kind of thematic treasure hunt for meaning amongst seemingly disparate photographs. Edith Fikes’ short story “Eagle Street House” provides further context and narrative specificity, but it also blurs the lines between fiction and documentary and undermines our ability to parse the boundaries between truth, myth and lie.
Searching for a treasure that was likely never lost to begin with could be seen as an act of futility. But Mantle’s pursuit of it, metaphorically, allows for degrees of surrealism and absurdity to emerge in the storytelling, attributes that only complicate the way that Misplaced Fortunes depicts Appalachia.
In the end, this book is a treasure hunt, a colonialist road trip, a study of road building, an anecdote about American expansion and an analogy for the process of looking that is the foundation of all photographic exploration.
Out of stock