Alec Soth's Archived Blog

March 31, 2007

Crying & Flying – Part 5

Filed under: crying & flying — alecsothblog @ 8:19 am

Leaving for Paris and feel like crying. Sprung has Spring. The kids are chirping. The birds are on their tricycles. The blog goes quiet.

(I’d rather be eating McMuffins in Minneapolis).

Eggleston (Crying & Flying – Part 4)

Filed under: photographs (not mine) — alecsothblog @ 8:18 am

from Los Alamos by William Eggleston

from The Democratic Forest by William Eggleston

March 30, 2007

John Shabel (Crying and Flying – Part 3)

Filed under: artists,crying & flying — alecsothblog @ 2:30 pm

Passenger #2, 1995, by John Schabel

I’m a big fan of John Shabel’s series, Passengers. Over several years, Shabel shot thousands of grainy photographs of airplane passengers from which he selected fifteen images. Along with photographing at night (in order to see inside the plane), Shabel liked to shoot while it rained because it meant the planes were more likely to be delayed on the tarmac. This mix of rain, darkness and grain gives the pictures an especially somber mood.

In an interview with Egg, Shabel describes his pictures as portraits (and reminds me of the recent discussion of unconscious models):

I think of the “Passenger” photographs as portraits. They’re different from portraits in that the person being photographed is unaware. The passenger is unaware and locked inside an airplane, and the photographer is maybe a hundred yards away in the dark — and possibly under surveillance himself — but even so, the images tend to feel kind of intimate in that situation. I mean, that’s what was fascinating to me about that situation with the person locked inside an airplane. There’s no interaction. They’re unaware they’re being photographed, and I was very far away, maybe a hundred yards in the dark with this long lens and very nervous about someone watching me, and it was a very tense situation. Even so, the images would feel very quiet, and almost intimate.

  • Shabel’s pictures bring to mind Merry Alpern’s Dirty Windows and Todd Heisler’s amazing picture, Reno Airport (previously discussed here).

Friday Poem (Crying and Flying – Part 2)

Filed under: crying & flying,poetry — alecsothblog @ 7:04 am

The Threat
by Denise Duhamel

my mother pushed my sister out of the apartment door with an empty
suitcase because she kept threatening to run away my sister was sick of me
getting the best of everything the bathrobe with the pink stripes instead of
the red the soft middle piece of bread while she got the crust I was sick with
asthma and she thought this made me a favorite

I wanted to be like the girl in the made-for-tv movie Maybe I’ll Come Home
in the Spring
which was supposed to make you not want to run away but it
looked pretty fun especially all of the agony it put your parents through and
the girl was in California or someplace warm with a boyfriend and they
always found good food in the dumpsters at least they could eat pizza and
candy and not meat loaf the runaway actress was Sally Field or at least
someone who looked like Sally Field as a teenager the Flying Nun propelled
by the huge wings on the sides of her wimple Arnold the Pig getting drafted
in Green Acres my understanding then of Vietnam I read Go Ask Alice and
The Peter Pan Bag books that were designed to keep a young girl home but
there were the sex scenes and if anything this made me want to cut my hair
with scissors in front of the mirror while I was high on marijuana but I
couldn’t inhale because of my lungs my sister was the one to pass out
behind the church for both of us rum and angel dust

and that’s how it was my sister standing at the top of all those stairs that
lead up to the apartment and she pushed down the empty suitcase that
banged the banister and wall as it tumbled and I was crying on the other side
of the door because I was sure it was my sister who fell all ketchup blood and
stuck out bones my mother wouldn’t let me open the door to let my sister
back in I don’t know if she knew it was just the suitcase or not she was cold
rubbing her sleeves a mug of coffee in her hand and I had to decide she said I had to decide right then

March 29, 2007

Rodrigo Moya

Filed under: artists — alecsothblog @ 10:33 pm

In a Mexico City theater, two literary legends, and best friends, attend a movie premiere. The film, Supervivientes de los Andes, is an account of the Uruguayan rugby team that ate human flesh to survive after their airplane crashed in the Andes mountains. Due to projector problems, the movie was never shown. Accounts of what happened next are unclear. But what is known is that a fight broke out between Gabriel García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa.

Two days later, the photographer Rodrigo Moya snapped pictures of Márquez. After keeping these pictures to himself for thirty-one years, Moya recently allowed them to be published:

Gabriel García Márquez, 1976, by Rodrigo Moya

The recent NYTimes story about this picture prompted me to learn more about Moya. Born in Colombia in 1934, he moved to Mexico as a young man. From 1956 to 1968 he worked as a documentary photographer and covered numerous revolutionary movements in Mexico and Latin America. Though it never made it onto a t-shirt, one of Moya’s most celebrated pictures is of Che Guevara:

“Che melancólico, 1964, by Rodrigo Moya

By the 1970’s, Moya became frustrated by photography and created an independent magazine specializing in marine biology. He later wrote the book Cuentos para leer junto al mar (Tales to be Read by the Sea), which won a Mexican national literary award in 1997.

Since his recent recovery from cancer, Moya has been reevaluating his photographic archives. Along with portraits of Márquez and Guevara, Moya has some excellent pictures:


More examples here, here, here and here

Unconscious models

Filed under: crying & flying — alecsothblog @ 12:39 am

In an interview with ArtNet, David LaChapelle discusses his recent pictures (previously mentioned on this blog here):

I’d been working so long with models who were quite conscious of the camera, and I wanted to find a way to make people unconscious of the camera (without feeding them “roofies” or knocking them out). I wanted to figure out a way to keep my subjects from posing. So I got this large tank and filled it with warm water…The people in the tank are basically forced to relax, all they can see is a big blur. And they’re not professional models — I got people off Craigslist or went up to people at Trader Joe’s and said, “Would you like to be in a dunk chamber?

Speaking of unconscious models, State of the Art recently discussed two different photo controversies: the murdered models on “America’s Top Models” and the Dolce & Gabbana rape fantasy ad.

“Sexy and offensive are two concepts very far from each other,” says Stefano Gabbana in an interview with Newsweek, “Sexy can become vulgar according to how the item is worn and interpreted.”

LaChapelle has a slightly different opinion. “I think we’re in a post-pornographic time and nothing seems shocking, but everything remains carnal no matter what you do.”

March 27, 2007

Judy Linn

Filed under: artists — alecsothblog @ 8:54 pm

I recently came across the work of Judy Linn. She is best known for her photographs of Robert Mapplethorp and Patti Smith (you can see some of these pictures here, here and here). But Linn’s more eclectic recent work is worth a look. She currently has a show up at Feature Inc:

Untitled, 2002, by Judy Linn

In an interview with Index Magazine, Feature’s director, Hudson, was asked why Linn is the only photographer represented by the gallery:

She comes more from the history of photography She’s thankfully not a painter, sculptor, installation artist using photography. That’s so exasperating…It’s generally so dull and predictable. Admittedly there are a lot of different modes there. There’s the diaristic, the technical, the sociological (and so on). But they become codified so quickly that when you look at the work, you merely identify the genre or subject matter and then you don’t need to engage it. It’s also been killed by the quantity. One of the biggest problems with early 21st-century life (in general) is how the quantity of something diminishes its ability to have power and meaning. It’s really hard to fight that.

I can see why Hudson responds to Linn’s pictures. They are clearly made by a photographer – not an ‘artist using photography’. And the pictures do seem to skirt easy classification (documentary, diaristic, etc). The New Yorker described her show this way:

This survey of thirteen recent photographs—some in color, most in black-and-white—is modest, quirky, and offhandedly shrewd. Like so many contemporary photographers, Linn tends to take pictures of things that are not very interesting: bits of bread scattered on trampled snow, a sunny sidewalk peppered with tiny buds, a blond woman with an extravagant ponytail, a pine tree in a flooded field, a solitary cow. But each image is at once self-effacing and just right. The show doesn’t exactly cohere (what does this woman in bed have to do with that dishtowel?), but no matter; Linn’s scattershot approach feels right on target.

What is the trick? How do you make thirteen unrelated and unclassifiable pictures work together? Here is how Linn explains herself:

Words and pictures by nature don’t agree. There is no good fit. I can’t say what I do or have done, but I know what I want, what I try to do. I can tell how I aim. I can’t say how I land.

When I began, I hated what I couldn’t control—all the annoying things I couldn’t see in the moment of taking a photograph, the crazy stuff that jumps into the edges of pictures. Now I like that part the best. But I do want to be accurate, although “accurate” is a slippery word. I don’t mean a quality of photography. I think Cezanne, Ingres, and de Kooning are all accurate. I don’t think Ansel Adams is accurate. If you look at a Hiroshige woodcut of a whirlpool, you figure it is a fanciful rendition because how accurate can a woodcut be? But if you go to see the whirlpool, you see that he is telling you exactly what it looks like.

I think when someone first looks at a photograph they automatically wonder, “What is it?” I want a photograph that easily answers that question. I want to be extremely obvious; obfuscation is bad grammar. Hopefully, the two-dimensional arrangements of shapes on the paper will be as lively and interesting as the three-dimensional world trapped inside the photograph. There should also be something there you haven’t seen before. Something should happen in the act of looking.

I want a photograph that makes me aware of what is physically in front of me, a photograph that gives me the pleasure of getting lost. It is like asking yourself a joke: not really knowing what the answer is, giving up, and then seeing the punch line and really laughing.

Untitled, 1995, by Judy Linn

Regarding W

Filed under: editorial photo,photo tech,studio — alecsothblog @ 10:37 am
Some answers to reader questions here

March 25, 2007


Filed under: editorial photo,minnesota,Paris, MN,photographs (mine) — alecsothblog @ 9:07 pm

Ronald, 2007, by Alec Soth

What happens when haute couture comes to Minnesota? See my 26-page spread in the current issue (April) of W Magazine.

Crying & Flying

Filed under: crying & flying — alecsothblog @ 9:04 pm
Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at