Alec Soth – Infinity Award Winner for Publication 2011

TR140.S681 2010
From Here to There:  Alec Soth’s America
Minneapolis, Minn.  Walker Art Center, 2010.

Alec Soth (rhymes with Both) has made a book with the Walker Art Center produced in conjunction with an exhibition that represents something that perhaps could best be described as a mid-career retrospective. I would have really loved to have seen this exhibition but I confess that I have never been to Minneapolis, Minnesota*.

I seriously wonder as to why this show has not made it on to the circuit of a major art museum in New York or the north-east coast area as Alec Soth is certainly one of the most relevant photographic practitioners of our age. He is adored by our students, patrons and community at the ICP as an embodiment of the zeitgeist of contemporary photography. His blog, his book making, his photographs, his style, his independence, his do-it-yourself attitude, his overall Soth-ness, etc. The Alec Soth enterprise just has this feel of something that many creators would like to emulate or be a part of in some way as it is very much of THIS time. It is no exaggeration to say that he is a major inspiration to many practitioners, enthusiasts and bibliophiles out there. Though all may not like his work, his entrepreneurial attitude is to be admired. This book is more than yet another photobook with ‘America’ in the title.

For your information, Alec Soth blog:

Alec Soth – Infinity Award Winner for Publication 2011

From Here to There is a wonderful and well-designed publication filled with great image selections, a complete exhibition history, a bibliography and an intimate interview with Alec Soth by Bartholomew Ryan. But for me, the real clincher is the profoundly sad 48 paged ‘bonus’ an artists’ book included in an envelope at the back of this publication which is titled The Loneliest Man in Missouri.  In the main publication, From Here to There, we get a well-edited and fairly comprehensive sample of Alec Soth’s work to date, but it is in this little volume at the back that we are shown what really makes his work so gritty and compelling. The Loneliest Man in Missouri is a short photographic essay featuring parking lots, motels and middle aged gentlemen in locations outside strip bars. Accompanying the images are hand written diaristic texts which introduce us to Ed and to the stripper Blaze: “Blaze Sang Happy Birthday to Ed” is written in tiny scrawl and we are shown Ed in a chair with a fiery  candled birthday cake on his lap, Blaze beside him; “Ed Reads T.S.Eliot’s Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock to Blaze” (the poem is included in its entirety). This is Soth at his best combining the comic with the tragic as he explores the lives of “outsiders” with his intense camera wit. Soth is more than an ordinary observer capturing the isolation, loneliness and emptiness of situations. Sensitive and shy Alec Soth is very present in his images, as he contemplates the anguish and absurdity, he mixes with the imagery and becomes at one with it. “For real, in real life” as my four year old son would say. With Alec Soth, you just don’t get the sense that this is a voyeuristic and exploitative ‘drive by’ game.

*This will be changing very soon as I shall be attending the VRA + ARLIS/NA conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 24-28, 2011 (Visual Resources Association and the Art Libraries Society of North America). I actually won an award to attend this conference – The Andrew Cahan Photography Award ($1000) and so I am very much looking forward to my first visit to the region.  So there are two awards mentioned in this post which is rather nice and succinct right?

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Award Winner for Publication 2011: Alec Soth, From Here to There: Alec Soth’s America
27th Annual Infinity Awards
Tuesday May 10, 2011Pier 60, New York City

Congratulations to the following artists…
Lifetime Achievement: Elliott Erwitt
Cornell Capa Award: Ruth Gruber
ICP Trustees Award: The Durst Family
Young Photographer: Peter van Agtmael
Art: Abelardo Morell
Photojournalism: Adrees Latif
Writing: Gerry Badger, The Pleasures of Good Photographs
Applied/Fashion/Advertising Photography: Viviane Sassen

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