• Nineteen Reservoirs: On Their Creation and the Promise of Water for New York City
    Lucy Sante
    Tim Davis
    The Experiment, 2022
    The Experiment

Tim Davis, "Ashokan Reservoir," 2020. Courtesy the photographer

Without the upstate reservoir system that brings fresh water to New York City, the city would have faded into insignificance. But this engineering triumph had a cost. From 1907 to 1967, 26 upstate villages, farms, forests, and other natural areas were bought for a fraction of their value, demolished, then submerged to create the Catskills and Delaware watershed systems. Compelled to understand “the air of permanent mourning” in their vicinity, this book marshals the same gifts that made Sante’s previous book, Low Life (FSG, 1991), a now-classic of New York City history: a meticulously detailed accounting of their creation, a trove of rarely seen visual history, and a master of literary nonfiction’s sensibility for the essential paradox at the heart of this story: the triumph New York City’s 19 reservoir system represents, and the tragedy of its creation.

Lucy Sante was born in Verviers, Belgium, and is the author of seven books, her first being Low Life (FSG, 1991). Sante’s other books include Evidence, The Factory of Facts, Kill All Your Darlings, The Other Paris, Folk Photography, and, most recently, Maybe the People Would Be the Times. She is the recipient of a Whiting Award, Guggenheim and Cullman fellowships, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Grammy (for album notes), and an Infinity Award for Writing from the International Center of Photography. Sante has contributed to the New York Review of Books since 1981 and to many other publications. She teaches writing and the history of photography at Bard College and lives in Ulster County, New York.

Tim Davis studied photography at Bard College, graduating in 1991. He pursued a career as a poet and editor in New York before returning to photography, receiving an MFA from Yale University in 2001. He has since had solo shows in Brussels, Geneva, London, Milan, and New York, including a recent exhibition at the Bohen Foundation. His work is in the collections of the Guggenheim, Whitney, Brooklyn, and Metropolitan Museums in New York; the Milwaukee Museum of Art; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; the Baltimore Museum; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; and numerous others. His fourth book of photographs and essays, I’m Looking Through You, was published by Aperture in May 2021. He teaches photography at Bard College.

Launched in 2009, The Experiment was so named because every book is a test of new ideas.