The Missing Volumes I-III

What You’ll Find...

The Missing is the result of a three-year mission by photographer Louis Heilbronn and journalist Mitch Swenson to investigate that which has vanished throughout America. Broken into three legs, and moving westward across the country, the project explores not only a breadth of range in visual and literary storytelling formats, but also the blurred delineations between fact and fiction. From the shores of Atlantic City - in the darkest dead of winter - to the in-lands of Alaska - during the midnight sun of summer - The Missing’s purpose is to provide a fully-encompassed look at contemporary life in the forgotten corners of a famous nation. Here, the ultimate outcome asks the viewer to reevaluate their own personal truths, as well as their longing, or perhaps lack thereof, for the things they may never get back.

In its first volume, Down Beach, Heilbronn and Swenson address the tattered glow of a once thriving town. Atlantic City, post-Hurricane Sandy and over a grey January weekend, is a far memory of what it once was. Told through three third-person vignettes, the section weaves together fictional accounts of seemingly real people in real places, setting the stage for viewers to envision a low season and lost glamour which is counter to the city’s slogan: “Always turned on.” A gritty journey through abandoned hotels, empty boardwalks, crumbling foundations, and stalled initiatives brings to life the untold perspectives of those secretly holding on to an erstwhile glory and faded, bygone hope.

In its second volume, Chasing Darkness, the team ventures into the heart of the fly-over states to investigate the local phenomenon of “spooklights,” a set of phantom light sources whose existence survives via oral history passed down through generations. Traveling the dank swamps of Missouri, the great plains of Kansas, the clean creeks of Arkansas, and the Native reserves of Oklahoma, Chasing Darkness is comprised in folkloric fashion. A mosaic of poetry, quote, and lyrical passage, the volume’s style seeks to reflect the murky, nebulous truth and tale surrounding the origin and reality of the elusive luminations. In this section, the spooklights represent much more than a simply unexplained glow, they are emblematic of small town beliefs - ideations of the haunted, the netherworld, the void of the unknown. In effect, they represent what cannot be seen, as well as that which retreats without cause to resurface. 

In its final volume, Triangle of Silence, the duo sets off to probe the extraordinary disappearances which plague the interior of Alaska - a swath of hinterland where more people have gone missing than anywhere else on the planet. The section is conveyed through first-person nonfiction narration, leading the viewer into the bowels of permanent sunshine along the Last Frontier State. Here, observation, discovery, and conclusion, are presented as they happen in real time, depicting the wandering campaign of the artists, conjoined with the wild landscapes, and infused with the breakthroughs and pitfalls pertaining to the mystery.

From east to west, winter to summer, darkness to light, and fiction to nonfiction, The Missing carves new pathways into an expansive field of storytelling soil. Nodding to notable writer/photographer collaborations like Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee and Walker Evans, as well as a more modern set of “dispatches” by Alec Soth and Brad Zeller, Down Beach, Chasing Darkness, and Triangle of Silence culminate in the illumination of both small town magic and tragedy - cobbling together dramas from the hidden culverts of the American milieu and unearthing points of interest for those who may still feel lost. 

February 2017

First Edition by Wildebeest (2017)
37 color photographs. 123 pages. 600 Copies. 
Full book for sale $35
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