Alec Soth

Alec Soth has been famed for his beautifully composed images, often taken with a large-format 8×10 inch camera, recording life in “the big middle” of the United States of America.

Text Eline Verstegen
Images Alec Soth

Alec Soth’s practice was influenced by the American documentary photography tradition of Walker Evans, Robert Frank and Joel Sternfeld. He chose the open road for his projects, often with a list of the shots he wants attached to his steering wheel. Moreover, all his series were also originally devised as photobook projects, since Soth focusses not as much on the capturing of transient encounters, but on assembling them in a coherent visual story where they can resonate off each other.

In Sleeping by the Mississippi (2004) Soth travelled along the Mississippi River, photographing remnants of a dream-like wanderlust. Two years later, he concentrated on the Niagara Falls, a popular tourist attraction, honeymoon destination and suicide spot. NIAGARA (2006) hence records the hopes and disillusions that converge there. Feeling a certain unease with the art world and the medium photography at this point in his career, Soth found himself on the verge of buying a cave in nature to retreat to. Hereby inspired, he sought for people who had turned their back on the world completely. He caught haunting glimpses of people who went ‘into the wild’ in Broken Manual (2010), which he also provided with an escape and survival instruction. However, feeling the need then again to reconnect with society, he travelled with writer Brad Zellar. For Songbook (2014), they published their images and texts of everyday life in small-town communities on the go in an A3 magazine.

The tie that binds these projects is Soth’s aesthetic approach. Soth manages to evoke states of mind, moods that linger in the twilight zone between the romantic and the real, shot through with a dose of desolate, yet intimate melancholia. He shows a most honest and tender rendition of human emotions, at once subtle and raw.

Alec Soth (b. 1969, Minneapolis) works and lives in Minneapolis. Besides working on his own fine art projects, Soth runs Little Brown Mushroom, a small publishing house focused on new ways of creating and distributing visual storytelling. Since 2008 he is also a member of Mangum Photos. Soth has had over fifty solo exhibitions, amongst other at the Jeu de Paume (Paris, 2008) and Walker Art Centre (Minnesota, 2010). He has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Guggenheim Fellowship in 2013. His work his held in major private and public collections. He is now represented by Sean Kelly Gallery in New York, Weinstein Gallery in Minneapolis and Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco.

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