The Tennessee River



This work documents the heavily controlled and harnessed rivers of the Tennessee River Basin after 80 years of the Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) policies, ultimately showing the complicated effects and consequences of large-scale modernization. The Tennessee Valley Authority was the first government agency whose limits were defined by a geomorphological condition; the area encompassing the Tennessee Watershed. 

A common misconception of a watershed is that it's all about the water. While water does play a large part, the land plays an even larger role by directing the water to a common point, such as a river or ocean. Thus, human impact on the land directly affects the water that runs over it. 

The TVA's original mission as a multipurpose authority has shifted since World War II and for the second half of the 20th century the TVA was mostly concerned with production of cheap electricity through coal fired plants. However, it's recent push towards heavier reliance on natural gas and nuclear energy, as well as renewable resources has changed the landscape of the rivers in the watershed in ways that are already evident. Down from being one of the top five most polluted rivers in the United States in the 1990s, the Tennessee now sits near the bottom of the list of 25 most polluted rivers. Alongside this progress, there have been negative reverberations throughout the watershed communities. From the drowned towns and resident relocations spanning to the 20th century, to the largest toxic waste spill in US history in 2008, the TVA's effect on the region is all encompassing. 

Jeff Rich is an Assistant Professor at the University of Iowa in the School of Art and Art History. He also curares the weekly series Eyes on the South for Oxford American Magazine. He received his MFA in photography from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2010. His project "Watershed: A Survey of the French Broad River" was awarded the 2010 Critical Mass Book Award, and was published as a monograph in 2012. His work has been exhibited at numerous group and solo exhibitions around the country. 

The Tennessee River

The Tennessee River folio contains five archival prints from Jeff Rich's project, as well as an essay by Rich, all encased in beautiful handmade folio by Lauren Bishop. The letterpress broadsides are designed and printed by Brown Parcel Press. The folio is an edition of 15 starting at $1200. For more information, please contact us.

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