Hands down Alec Soth is one of the most talented artists of our time. Whether he’s shooting nude newlyweds in Niagara or Johnny Cash’s childhood home, Soth’s images are the most sure-footed fine-art photography of his generation.
He was born in 1969 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States and he is based in Minneapolis where he lives with his wife and two children. Soth studied at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York and was described as “painfully shy” in his youth.
Soth both enjoyed and was inspired by famed photographer Diane Arbus. You can sometimes see a bit of Arbus in Soth’s work. He traveled around the Mississippi River and made a self-printed book with the title “Sleeping by the Mississippi “which included both landscapes and portraits.Curators for the 2004 Whitney Biennial put him in their show, and one of his photographs entitled “Charles”, of a man in a flight suit on his roof holding two model airplanes, was used in their poster.
Soth received international acclaim when his work was featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions such as the 2004 Whitney and Sao Paulo Biennials.
His photographic style continued to develop in subsequent series beginning with the iconic “Sleeping by the Mississippi” and then with “Niagara”, “The last days of W” and “Broken Manual”.
Soth’s tools are a large format camera, people and landscapes of suburban and rural communities.
His photography has a cinematic feel; the colors and the atmosphere that he creates in his photographs define his distinctive style.
New York Times art critic Hilarie M. Sheets wrote that he has made a “photographic career out of finding chemistry with strangers” and photographs “loners and dreamers”.
“Everyone can take great pictures,” Alec Soth tells BJP at the opening of his first UK exhibition, Gathered Leaves, at London’s Science Museum. “What’s hard is taking a collection of great pictures and making them work together. It’s like language: everyone can speak but putting the words together is the real challenge.”
So I visited London’s Science Museum to see for myself what Alec Soth was saying with his work “Gathered Leaves”. I was amazed by the accuracy of his work; everything was perfect, the lights and ambiance, the quality of his photographs, the size of his prints… everything! He was telling a story loud and clear. I was looking at a different America, the less travelled one; the hidden but real one.
“Gathered Leaves” underlines why Alec Soth is widely considered as one of the best photographic artists in the world. His statement that “the mark of a great photographer isn’t taking one amazing photo but assembling an amazing collection” is proved many times over in this compelling, intelligently curated and deeply entertaining exhibitions.
I have to add that he has been a member of magnum photos since 2008.
Magnum Photos is an international photographic cooperative owned by its photographer-members, with offices in New York City, Paris, London and Tokyo. According to co-founder Henri Cartier-Bresson, “Magnum is a community of thought, a shared human quality, a curiosity about what is going on in the world, a respect for what is going on and a desire to transcribe it visually.
Throughout this article you can see a small selection of Alec Soth’s work. If you would like to know more about Alec Soth and his work have a look below:
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