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Alec Soth

Actualizado: 5 dic 2018

He is an American Photographer. He has worked for The New York Times, the Fortune and Newsweek magazines and is part of the Magnum Agency.

He has published different books: “Sleeping by the Mississippi” in 2004, “Niagara” in 2006, “Broken Manual” in 2010 and “Song Book” in 2015.

In 2008 he has created Little Brown Mushroom, a multi-media enterprise focused on visual storytelling.

If we have a look at the work of this photographer, we can see that he loves to travel looking for themes and characters throughout his country. In ‘Sleeping by the Mississippi’ we can find a clear example of this: curious characters with sad looks, lost, in different places, in prison, seedy motels, empty spaces, dirty and abandoned, cemeteries that are lost in the forest and next to a gas station as covering the landscape, the impact of religion on its characters, photographs that seem simple but with big stories behind that force the viewer to read between lines to be able to elucidate what is happening.

In Magnum Photo’s web site there are a special space dedicated to the artist. We can find some of his photographs, and information about the creative process of his first book “Sleeping by the Mississippi which allow us to understand his work: “He began to follow the Mississippi River in his car, driving from place to place, letting himself progress towards locations he had vaguely researched and using the river as a route to connect with people along the way”.

During his road trip he had a list of keywords for things he was interested and to stop the car as soon as something caught his eye. Soth said he felt warmly welcome in the region, he was allowed into the intimacy of people’s home, maybe it helped him the fact that he was always walking with his camera mounted on the tripod. “Photography was a permission slip, a reason for being there, for entering the lives of strangers, and taking their picture”.

As he said about his own work: “I fell in love with the process of taking pictures, with wandering around finding things. To me it feels like a kind of performance. The picture is a document of that performance”.

Soth acknowledges the influence of Robert Frank in his work, an important photographer who in 1955 made a road trip around the country to photograph the life in US, pictures that were published under the title “Americans” and shows anonymous characters captured with naturalness, gas stations, cowboys, lost roads, trams, drive-in car, etc.

In 2010, Alec Soth release ‘Booken Manual’ an underground instruction manual for those looking to escape their lives. During four years the artist try to explore the desire to disappear. During his research he meet Laure Flammarion and Arnaud Uyttenhove who were really interested to do a documentary about Alec Soth’s new project. They were two years on the road with Alec and made ‘Somewhere to disappear’.

Alec wanted to look people who deliberately choose to disappear in America. So this French couple recorded this documentary where Alec Soth appear with his photographic camera, travelling across America looking for this outsiders. The photographer makes himself questions trying to understand why people wants to life by their own. What are they really looking for? Do they regret it?

During his long travel, he found people who lives in mountain cabins, another one in caves, other in the desert but everyone just wants to find peace and to build their own world, their own space.

This documentary is such a personal reflexion about life, and re-thinking the concept of home. The camera explores different places: the road, forest, mountain, desserts, during the day and night to find a man who have already decided another way to life. Alec talks with this men, ones said they doesn’t believe in the Democracy anymore.

He is finding amazing places like an empty cavern. The photographer couldn’t believe what he was looking, so he took his photography camera and started to take some photos, showing us this enigmatic place, which contain a bed, wardrobe, a nice window, a television with some VHS videos and the voice over saying: ‘this is a place you can go and dream’. So in different moments of the film I start to feel how the photographer start to understand their characters and in many moments he is making personal reflexions, fantasizes about his subject. And in a certain way it is normal, who has not had any desire to disappear in this society that can be so crazy, selfish and sometimes terrifying?

Through this journey we can know the story of a former homeless homosexual, a repented Nazi who fled his former militia who have been on a quest to eliminate him and now he is living in a little cave and sleep with his gun beside him, a drug addict, a father of two, a disillusioned retired military man.

In the web site www.vice.comthere are a really nice interview with the directors of this documentary. They said: “for us it wasn’t a movie about weird people, it was a movie about people who realize their dream. We all share that. At some point we’d all like to disappear”.


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