Hey Les. Long time, no etc.
I surfaced in Rome at the end of September (don’t ask). I needed to reconnect with la vita bella. I owed myself an immersion after a long, long period of self-denial (again, don’t ask). Not to say I was after any swooning, Stendhal Syndrome effects; I just felt sorely deprived of beauty. And where better to rejuvenate—beauty inhabits the language, the food, the people, the everyday life of Italy. We know, we’ve been there.
My place was near the Galvani/Zabaglia bus stop, and I was ambling one evening around piazza Orazio Giustiniani. There was all kinds of hubbub, more than the standard Roman white noise. Something about a festival. Another art-photo-extravanganza. Wandering into the midst of it, there in front of me was our friend Alec. His work, I mean. Some darn fascinating pictures in that exhibition; seems he got a commission to photograph the city of Rome. But had his own Stendhal moment and bailed. “Too beautiful,” he said. Can’t say I blame the poor blighter, landlocked Minnesotan that he is. Regardless, he found some things to suggest the beauty he couldn’t address head on, and it’s all gorgeously fascinating and attractive in a Ten Commandments, “thou shalt not” kind of way.
I wasn’t swooning, but I was mesmerized. There’s some sexy stuff in Alec’s show, some almost startlingly so (a nod to the late great Larry Sultan, who we know Alec admired). Some more subtle, though your average 10-year-old ragazzo would probably get the figs and kumquats picture. Some pretty sloppy beauties, though still gorgeous, like the “pale” men, one who seems on a 3-day-bender and the other zonked out in a smoke-filled car. Or that awesome Gabriella, hair like snakes on Medusa’s fearsome head. Snakes (including one impossibly knotted one that ends up looking like a heart), smoke (issuing from a woman’s mouth like a tongue), temptation—ahh, the lustful beauty of it all.
I left full of questions. Is la bellezza truly in the eye of the beholder? Or is there universal beauty? Maybe it’s all in the translation from life to photograph. Good makeup artists and stylists can do wonders, can’t they Les? Bail out a photographer who’s lost his bearings? Worth thinking about.
And for the life of me, I can’t figure out all the pineapples.
Last night Errol Morris posted a wonderful series of tweets:
For what it is worth, I subscribe to every single one of these assertions. But the fun part of reading this is thinking about the implications for fine art photographers. What does the clumsy and pretentious term ‘Fine Art Photographer’ mean? For me it means the kind of photography in which authorship is essential to the reading of the pictures. With this in mind, Morris’s 2nd point is key:
The intentions of the photographer are not recorded in a photographic image. (You can imagine what they are, but it’s pure speculation).
This speculation is at the heart of what we call fine art photography.When I look out Robert Franks’s window in Butte Montana, I hold in my head all of the other pictures in The Americans along with some words by Kerouac and whatever else I know about Frank and his biography. In other words, the intentions of the photographer might not be recorded, but their speculation is essential to the experience of the work.
This is a point Geoff Dyer eloquently makes about Frank in his book The Ongoing Moment:
“The pictures are apparently so casual as to seem hardly worth dwelling on. If we do choose to linger it is often to try to work out why Frank took a particular picture (what’s so special about this?)…The purpose of the photograph made from a hotel window in Butte, Montana is to confirm that the view, partly hindered by net curtains, does not merit a second glance (as such the photograph demands that we return to it again and again).”
So what is the photographer’s intention when he recreates another photographer’s picture? I’ll leave that for you to speculate.
Alec Soth, from the series Broken Manual, 2008
As October sneaks up on us I’ve been gathering nuts and preparing myself for the bitter cold. I’ve also been spending a lot of time reading stories and escaping reality. Yesterday our fellow LBM comrade Brad Zellar posted a story I feel needs to be shared.
Read Nothing At All Like A Bruce Springsteen Song here .
I hope you enjoy.
I’m leaving on a jet plane today for Moscow and Rome. In my luggage I’ll be carrying a fresh new LBM publication: Bunny Boy Goes To Rome. Following up on the last year’s Brighton Bunny Boy, this new publication features another thrilling adventure from Carmen Soth (drawings, photos & story), Gus Soth (Bunny Boy), Rachel Soth (bunny wrangling) and myself (director).
Check out the new zine here
Buy your copy here (order soon – Brighton Bunny Boy is already SOLD OUT)
A year ago I wrote a post saying that the blog was quiet because we were busy working on a bunch of projects. Well, a year as passed and most of those projects came to fruition. But, alas, the blog has gone quiet again. So here’s a little update on what’s going on for the next month and a half.
- September 16: Lecture in Moscow
- September 22: I’ll be in Rome exhibiting a new project and book, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, as part of the FOTOGRAFIA – Festival Internazionale di Roma.
- September 29-October 2: LBM will be at the New York Art Book Fair launching 3 new books by Anouk Kruitof, Jason Polan, and the Soth Family. Stay tuned for details
- September 30: I’ll be in Syracuse for the opening of From Here To There: Alec Soth’s America at the Everson Museum of Art.
- October 2: I’ll be in Art Platform Los Angeles giving a lecture with Catherine Opie.
- October 19: I’ll be back in LA giving a talk at The Hammer with Kate and Laura Mulleavy (Rodarte) and Catherine Opie to talk about Rodarte’s new book.
England. New Brighton, From The Last Resort. 1983-1985 by Martin Parr
Leon Shambroom, the 25-year-old son of Joan Rothfuss and Paul Shambroom, suffered a severe brain injury in a July 2010 house fire in South Minneapolis. Smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning have left Leon unable to walk or talk. He requires 24-hour care with daily tasks, and he will face other hurdles in the coming months. Things are likely to become complicated and very expensive owing to the typical bureaucratic hoops too often encountered by patients and their families in the aftermath of catastrophic medical events.
On July 14th, at the Weinstein Gallery in Minneapolis, we will be holding a silent auction for Leon. Over 50 renowned artists, both local and from around the world, have generously donated works to be sold in the silent auction. Please come to show your loving support to our friends in need, and enjoy a night of music, food and art.
Hosts: Alec Soth, Carrie Thompson, Brian Ulrich, Weinstein Gallery and The Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
With a musical performance by Channy from Roma di Luna
Thursday July 14, 2011
Reception: 6pm – 9pm
Auction 6pm – 8pm
908 West 46th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55419
Sorry, there are no provisions for those who can’t attend to bid. There may be something on-line later for work not sold at the event, if so we’ll let you know.
Forgive the silence on the blog of late. It has been a tumultuous couple of months. First there was the relatively short but seemingly epic Postcards From America road trip. Here’s a picture from Uncle Jackson’s shotgun:
Following that I was in Rome for three weeks working on a commission for FOTOGRAFIA – International Festival of Rome in which I photographed, among other things, a snake:
While in Europe I stopped by Paris for some exciting Magnum meetings:
Now I’m finally home for at least a week. One of the most exciting things about coming home was seeing this new book in the mail:
I still have a few more trips to go this summer. But soon enough I hope to be back in the digital saddle. Till then…
I’m thrilled to announce that Broken Manual will be opening on Friday, June 10th, at Loock Gallery in Berlin (6-9pm). To accompany the exhibition, Loock Galerie will present Somewhere to Disappear, a film by Laure Flammarion and Arnaud Uyttenhove about the making of Broken Manual. The screening takes place in the Berlin cinema Arsenal on Friday, 10 June, at 5.30 pm.
Due to a respiratory illness (fricking whooping cough!) I regret that I’m unable to travel to Berlin for this extraordinary night. I’d give anything to be there.
Harper’s Books is pleased to present “Alec Soth’s Lonely Boy Magazine,” an exhibition of photographs from two interrelated projects: “The Loneliest Man in Missouri,” and “The Most Beautiful Woman in Georgia.” In conjunction with the exhibition, we are also excited to announce the release of Lonely Boy Mag No. A-2, published by Soth’s imprint Little Brown Mushroom, and featuring work from “The Most Beautiful Woman in Georgia.” In addition to Soth, the show will also contain work by Todd Hido, Peter Davidson and Chad States, all contributors to Lonely Boy Mag No. A-2.
More info here.
Thanks to everyone who came to sold out screening of Somewhere To Disappear in Minneapolis. It was a great night. There is a nice little post on Krista Tippett’s blog about the film here. Be sure to check out the upcoming screenings in Toronto (though I’ve heard it is sold out) and New York.
Want the film to come to your city? Let the producers know on the Somewhere To Disappear Facebook Page.
I’m thrilled that the documentary film, Somewhere To Disappear, is beginning to make its way out into the world. There are three screenings coming up soon:
MINNEAPOLIS: Monday, May 2nd, 7pm at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Film Festival. (I’ll be at the screening).
TORONTO: Thursday May 5th at 7pm and Saturday, May 7th at 1:15pm at the HotDocs Festival. (The filmmakers will be at the screening).
NEW YORK: Monday, May 9th at 8pm at The New School. (Both the filmmakers and I will be at the screening).
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about bunnies. One obvious reason is Easter, the other is the project I’m working on. For these reasons I wanted to share a few bunny photos. The first photo is from my project titled GOMA. This is a photo of GOMA the bunny. The photo was taken in Japan on Chigasaki beach about a year ago.
One of my favorite bunny photos ever was taken by Rinko Kawauchi
I showed this photo in my blog post last year about bunny books.
In order to raise money for the Postcards From America project that I just announced, we are selling a few different items on the project website. After only a few hours, we’ve sold a bunch of the book/postcard sets. This edition is limited to 500 and we’re only selling 250 before the trip (the price will likely be raised afterward). Since some of the readers of this blog are avid book collectors, I suggest buying this one sooner than later. Order yours here.
I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about the new Magnum project, Postcards From America. This May, I’m going to be joining four other photographers (Jim Goldberg, Susan Meiselas, Chris Anderson, Mikhael Subotzky) and the writer Ginger Strand for a two week road trip from San Antonio to Oakland.
This is a unique project for Magnum. We are working collaboratively and are hoping to engage much more directly with our audience. At the beginning of the trip we will be doing a public event at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin. And at the end we’re going to do a pop-up exhibition somewhere in Oakland.
We also hope to connect with people during the run of the trip in a variety of ways:
- On our project website you can sign up to receive postcards from the photographers or a limited edition book/prints from the trip.
- You can follow our progress on our Tumblr blog (and also on Facebook and Twitter).
- Through our Flickr page, you can contribute your own images of America.
In the one and only interview I’ve given about Conductors of the Moving World, I stated that I found the images on the blog of a NYU photo student. In the interview I neglected to credit this individual by name. I also neglected to have the writer of the book credit him in his acknowledgements. I regret this mistake and would like to publicly thank Michael George for his blog post in January, 2010.