Long out of print, highly sought after, widely lauded, Nancy Rexroth’s IOWA has been brought back, now with new forwards from Alec Soth and Anne Wilkes Tucker, the original forward and a new afterword from Mark L. Power, the original Introduction and a remembrance from Rexroth, plus 23 additional, previously unpublished photographs from Rexroth’s archives.
When it first appeared, Rexroth’s book, shot entirely with a Diana camera, was something strange and wonderful. Nobody of any note was shooting with a Diana, at the time, and Lomography wasn’t yet a thing—the LC-A hadn’t even been manufactured yet—yet Iowa ignited something. Power mentions showing his copy of the original to his students over the last 40 years, and how it sparked something in everyone that saw it.
I don’t know anything about the original edition, but this new one is lovely. It’s a nice, heavy hard back with a thick dust jacket, and heavyweight glossy paper. The photos are well printed, if a bit on the small side, roughly twice as big as a 6×6 negative, but it makes you get in close to the work, become a part of it. I sorta wish I knew which pictures were left out of the original… is it the brownish ones at the back, or are they scattered throughout? I suppose it doesn’t matter, the work still flows and it all fits together very well.
When the IOWA reprint came out, it was all over the news, and I thought about picking one up multiple times, but always decided against it. Sure, its a seminal book that’s inspired many, but the images didn’t really speak to me and I didn’t really get the project. Now, with it in my hands thanks to my renewed Charcoal Book Club subscription (Happy Birthday to me, and Thanks, Mom!), I’m glad to have it, I guess, and get it now, but I probably still wouldn’t buy it for myself.
The new IOWA got a huge print run, so it’s available all over, and I encourage you to have a look at the photographs. Rexroth was able to do things with the Diana that no Lomographer ever imagined, and the project in its entirety is worth some study. The sequencing is excellent; it sets a mood and tells a story. IOWA really is a great book, and photographers and enthusiasts today are fortunate to have the opportunity to study it.
*After writing this line, I looked around and realized that I stole it, unconsciously, from Soth… I’d like to think that great minds think alike, but then he’s 1000 miles away and we don’t know one anther‚—though he did post a snippet of my unboxing of his Seesaw zine on his Instagram—so I don’t know if that adage applies at all. And, anyway, he stole it from Rexroth, who’s quoted as calling her IOWA “my own private landscape, a state of mind” in the flaps on the dust jacket and the publisher’s blurb (expand the Description) that appears all over the place.