Friday, September 15, 2006

Alec Soth

Running water

Alec Soth (1969, Minneapolis, Minnesota) combines the penetrating gaze of an experienced psychologist with the irresistable persuasive power of the savvy used-car salesman. Without effort he makes contact with complete strangers and manages to win their confidence in an instance. In that brief moment he wakes them from their slumbering existence, as it were, draws their deepest secrets from them, and lets them sink back happily into the anonimity where he found them only moments before. Soth’s photos capture people beneath the skin, the space between the person and himself. “I’m standing here, they’re standing there. In the space in between there is a gulf, a mystery, and for me, an attraction.” It is what Soth wants to capture in his photos: the invisible gap, the distance that joins us, that keeps everything in its proper place.

Chronicler of the ordinary
It is dark, dirty, unmistakably inclined towards the less prosaic sides of society, verging on neglect. It deals with the pursuit of starting and continuing relationships, the painful efforts to live in harmony with other people and the environment. It tells the story of human failings, of unfulfilled dreams and ideals. And all this depicted with a magnificent beauty.
Soth’s photographic eye moves from macro to micro. In richly detailed 8 x 10 colour photos he zooms in from a total shot – starting at the house in rural surroundings – to the resident, the interior, and its smallest details. In this slow camera movement the resident’s soul is exposed. The photography can be dreamy, lyrical, or a little sureal, and revolves around loneliness, desire and unfulfilled ideals.

Soth’s work is related to the work of William Eggleston, Shephen Shore and Joel Sternfeld. And like Robert Frank, Soth combines a documentary style with poetic sensibility.
Soth is a chronicler of ordinary American life in the best tradition of William Faulkner and Mark Twaine, with a camera as his writing tool.

Soth’s photographs capture people beneath the skin, the space between the person and himself

Alec Soth – Associate of the famed Magnum Photos and represented by the Gagosian Gallery - published two major projects in recent years: Sleeping by the Mississippi (2004) and NIAGARA (2006), both presenting running water as metaphor for human shortcomings, narrating of a quest for attachment.