On Lists

Posted in lists, Quiz by Alec Soth on September 16, 2010

For the Flickr Pool I created in conjunction with the Walker Art Center, the first assignment was a sort of photographic treasure hunt. The subjects of the hunt are: Pilots, Amateur Paintings, Unusually Tall People, Museum Guards, Sleeping Children, Neighborhood Bars, Supermarket Cashiers, Sheep, Sedans, Suitcases.

This list was derived from my business card circa 2002. This was the card I used while I was photographing Sleeping by the Mississippi (and is reproduced in the Walker’s exhibition catalogue).

As I said in the introduction to the Flickr assignment, I like these lists because they are excuse to get out the door. But the reason I used the list on my business card is because it explains my photographic practice. I don’t want to just photograph Weimreimers. I want my subject to be, as Robert Frank put it in his 1954 Guggenheim Fellowship proposal, ‘broad’ and ‘voluminous’.

For the record, Frank himself was a list maker:

If you wanna take a crack at my list, come join the Flickr Pool. We’re taking submissions until September 27th. Happy Hunting…

14 Responses

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  1. Frank Nachtman said, on September 16, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    I like Weimeraners.

  2. Y. Vallet said, on September 17, 2010 at 12:20 am

    Dear Alec,
    I like lists too. And I wish I could go see your exhibition at the Walker Art Center, but I’m just on the other side of the Atlantic !
    You can take a look at my post about your exhibition on my photoblog :
    Hope you enjoy.


  3. simon said, on September 17, 2010 at 2:32 am

    Viva la list!

  4. benjamin j borley said, on September 17, 2010 at 5:36 am

    Hi Alec,

    I’ve always loved that list by Robert Frank – it’s like a perfect Beat poem! And I always wonder how much of it might belong to that other great list maker (and photographer!) Walker Evans who had a hand in rewriting Frank’s application.

    In Unclassified – A Walker Evans Anthology the editors note that “many elements, such as the role of the photographer as archivist, classifying and cataloguing his photographs in the field, did not appear in Frank’s first draft”. It would be fascinating to see Frank’s original draft, annotated by Evans, contained in the Walker Evans Archive…



    p.s. love the blog btw…

  5. Little Round Muskrat said, on September 17, 2010 at 6:02 am

    Right on Frank!

    I have dedicated my life to photographing Weimreimers and have never regretted it. I did once to my shame take a stray shot of a schnauzer, but I have always tried since to make up for that moment of weakness.
    A pox on those Alec lists that lead you into random wanderings, stay focused instead on the one prize worth having, the Weimreimer.

    Enough said.

  6. alec said, on September 17, 2010 at 6:55 am

    Oh yeah, Benjamin, the whole letter has Evans all over it. And Evans was a list maker too.


    • benjamin j borley said, on September 17, 2010 at 7:32 am

      That’s a damn fine list but I think my all-time favourite Walker Evans list is this 1934 one from his letter to Ernestine Evans (if only for the ending!) –

      People, all classes, surrounded by bunches of the new down-and-out.
      Automobiles and the automobile landscape.
      Architecture, American urban taste, commerce, small scale, large scale, the city street atmosphere, the street smell, the hateful stuff, women’s clubs, fake culture, bad education, religion in decay.
      The movies.
      Evidence of what the people of the city read, eat, see for amusement, do for relaxation and not get it.
      A lot else, you see what I mean.



    • Michael Serra said, on September 19, 2010 at 2:58 pm


      Is this directly from Evans’ writings?

  7. DJC said, on September 17, 2010 at 10:09 am

    I had been looking for Frank’s application online recently. Thanks for posting. The idea of a list is a great way to “get out the door” and be productive, broad as it may be. Like a miniature, vague project plan. Ideally, you’ll create something cohesive within a context of a city or region, and if nothing else, you can check something off the list, which feels pretty good. Maybe an item reveals itself as an intriguing subject. Otherwise, just move on.

  8. Tim White said, on September 17, 2010 at 10:57 am

    When it comes to the grant writing process, it seems that even Robert Frank was a little opaque.

  9. Hannah said, on September 17, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    I wrote my response here,


  10. alec said, on September 17, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    Your Man For Fun In Rampidan posted his Taxonomy for the Curious yesterday….this is so damn good:

  11. alec said, on September 20, 2010 at 9:04 am

    Michael, yeah, I scanned that list from the book ‘Walker Evans at Work.’

  12. pierre yves racine said, on September 24, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    Evans at work is a great book !

    By the way, Alec, I find your lists funny and uncanny. Are they always so ?

    I would like to know when it is that you draw them, if you draw them with an idea about the project or if they are more random.

    As you know, many documentary photographers make lists but theirs seem more common and more “in keeping” with the subject.

    thank you

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