My Truth Behind Alec Soth’s “The Last Days of W.” By: Dominic Haywood SWC 100 Dr.


Alec Soth’s photo collection, “The Last Days of W” was released on October 1, 2008 on newspaper printing paper. It has been a project in the works since Bush started office in 2000. The entire 36 photo collection depicts every aspect of Bush’s presidency. He has many posed pictures throughout the collection placed carefully to help deliver the exact message he wants. His collection unravels the lies, deceit, and destruction we as a country has endured throughout Bush’s two term presidency. For eight long, grueling years this country has been through it all. From terrorist attacks (September 11th) to natural disasters, which could have had better precautionary measures taken (Hurricane Katrina). You can’t really blame a hurricane for wrecking the Gulf Coast on the EX-president of the United States of America. No, but you can blame him for the thousands of lives taken due to improper preparation by him and his political camp. Our Mr. 43rd president brought an already crippled American economy to its knees as he waged war in the middle east, created unbelievable tax hikes, caused gas prices to double, even worsen health care plans and the list goes on and on. The picture gallery, “The Last Days of W.” captures the hardships our country has faced during the two terms of our 43rd president. Alec Soth uses his photography to illustrate the “W”’s idiotic manner and showcases a political meaning behind every seemingly simple picture. The year was 2001. The second day of Infamy, September 11th, was a day no one saw coming. With the fall of the Twin Towers, everyone knew that there would be no good news in the media at all in the preceding weeks. Osama Bin Laden became a household name as the airing of the attack and his recorded threat were televised on TV for days. Picture number eleven of Alec Soth’s photo gallery is of a Paper Mache duplicate of Osama sitting on a ledge that seems to be in bad shape. The caption of this

picture is politically hilarious to me. It states “Osama, Minneapolis, Minnesota”. It’s just bleeding with the simplicity of Bush’s presidency and his administration. The picture is not that extravagant. It is very simple, very basic. It is another of his pictures with a plain background. This is one of the many reasons to the affirmation of the simplicity of the Bush administration. That for all we know, Osama could have been walking our streets and living amongst us everyday citizens and they still wouldn’t find him. The aspect of having the Osama doll, centered in the picture, with no other distractions multiplies the simple mindedness of the entire Bush administration. Another comedic aspect that Soth could have been trying to get across to his audience is that after all the “Osama look-alikes” being captured and interrogated, that they can mistake anyone for Osama. They could have very well mistaken this paper Mache Osama doll as the real him. The Presidency of W. is one that will forever be infamously remembered. Gathered from picture number three in the Alec Soth picture collection, (there was no title, the caption reads Walker, Minnesota), subliminal messages of Bush’s presidency and how it went “belly up” are scattered in every aspect of the picture. The picture is of an antelope head draped with Mardi gras beads and rearview mirror dice. It’s mounted on a very basic, very simple wall. The picture showcases different events that happen during the presidency of Bush. For starters the dice, one pair of dice read two the other, eight. Which, the photographer may have wanted to just give a little insight on the length of W’s time in office (two terms, eight years). Now on to the Mardi gras beads, this is a part of culture of southern Gulf States, to be specific New Orleans, Louisiana. 2005, was the year that W’s true colors were exposed. With the damage that Hurricane Katrina bestowed upon the South there was absolutely no reason for the ex-president not to want

to get immediate aid into the area, right? Well it must have been a very good reason as to why it took W as long as it did to make small steps in the restructuring of New Orleans. Health care has been a serious problem in the United States for decades. The effort to obtain a universal health care plan has been a constant struggle for every president within the last half century. It was always there but it became evident during Bush’s time in office. Picture number thirty-three with the caption “Chula Vista, California” shows an African-American male lying on an older model hospital bed next to a track under the bright sun seeking shade from a dead, bare tree. The landscape is lush green and every other tree and bush in the picture are of equal beauty, but that one tree. At first glance, one may say it’s an athlete who suffered an injury while running track. After looking at the guy, he seems to be very out of shape. He does not have the physique of an athlete. Also by looking at the footwear that is beneath the hospital bed (which are flip flops), it is very safe to say that he was not running track and that it is not an injury related to track. There was an old war movie that comes to mind when I look at the bed. The injured soldiers were all aligned under a tent within hugging space of those at his side. Maybe the male in the picture is an old war veteran. Maybe he was injured during his serving and was abandoned because he had no health care or money to pay hospital bills. The fact that he is seeking shade under a tree is the irony and the entire focus on the picture. It resembles the fact that no matter if you are a war veteran or if you play a sport, there is no shade; there is no comfort from the scorching heat of the realization of no fully covered governmental aid for your health needs As November 2008 became within reach many hopeful presidential candidates became noticed as the race for the office was in full stride. Picture number thirty-one with

the caption, Kamiah, Idaho, is of a white, open gate with tall trees inside the premises and bushes on the outside. The front of the entrance seems to be gaurded well with a stretching brick wall, while the sides are vulnerable only protected with a wooden fence that has gaps in between each piece of wood. The sky is cloudy with the looks of either a storm is brewing or a storm is passing. The road begins wide at the bottom of the picture then it narrows gradually. Some of the trees are beginning to lose its leaves so it’s a hint towards autumn. With the trees hinting at fall, it resembles to the time of the year that every votes for the next president. The white gate could illustrate the White House and that now since Bush is on his way out, the White House is now open to the next presidential candidate. In relation to the gate, the road in the picture has a very critical meaning in the picture. The road symbolizes the race to the White House. The road starts off wide, to show the great number of prospective candidates in the presidential race. As those hopefuls become more of the thing of the past the road begins to narrow. The road narrows gradually as the race thickens, and gets closer to November 11th. Just before you get to the gate, there is enough room for four people to stand shoulder to shoulder (John McCain-Sarah Palin and Barack Obama-Joe Biden). Election Day is the very last step to get into the White House in which the road is only big enough for the two winners. Quite opposite to the entering of a new president, the picture also portrays the exit of the president holding office. There was no media blitz when Bush was leaving office, it was very quiet. As Bush’s chapter as president ends, and The Obama Biden saga is in full gear, many questions are still being pondered. Can this one man be the missing link in the equation to bring us change? Will it be any different from the previous? In Soth’s photo

gallery, picture number thirty-four with no caption, or a picture at all. It is four simple words with a strong meaning, “either dusk or dawn”. Why would he have a slide with just four words? Why did he position it where he did? Besides the usual simplistic meaning of a lot of his pictures, this picture has a very deep meaning tangled in it. Is the night truly darkest before the day? This is the question that Soth is asking through this “photo”. If the United States economy was in such bad shape with Bush, can Obama make it any better? Or, he could be trying to infer that dusk is the symbol of Bush and Dawn is the symbol of Obama. The sun has set on Bush’s presidency and now it is the dawn of a new day as Obama takes office. Alec Soth had no problem at all making sure his voice was heard through his photographs. He expressed his feelings and opinions towards Bush, his administration, all they have failed to accomplish and his presidency as a whole. The set of pictures chosen from his photo collection, “The Last Days of W.” helped to give a brief descriptive over view of Bush’s presidency and how everything went from bad, to worse to the new aged depression in all of eight years. Does he still as if his mission is accomplished now?