Alec Soth's Archived Blog

June 28, 2007

Friday Poem

Filed under: poetry — alecsothblog @ 11:54 pm

Cameras Came Then to Replace Descriptive Paragraphs
by Martha Ronk

If description could outpace effusions of feeling,
serif or sans serif, punctuated with dashes and in Amherst,
could one say it was a peculiar summer.
I tried to like what I’d always liked and tried to get there
sooner rather than later.
I’d forgotten I liked orange until
on a scale of one to ten the petals ranged themselves
like swallows on the telephone wire
flying off at the sound of someone’s coming.
Something should have been a topic—
I had thought it out and left nothing to chance,
but the people kept arriving
never thinking to find the appropriate word for
what they were taking in and writing down.
One snapped a lily between finger and thumb
and one had hair like spilling rust.
The obscurist wind came up close and I remembered
thinking I’d been feeling the same way before.

June 27, 2007

Quiz: Name the Magnum photographer

Filed under: Magnum,quizes & assignments — alecsothblog @ 9:13 pm

June 26, 2007

File under S

Filed under: artists,Magnum — alecsothblog @ 11:39 pm

Magnum voted in three new nominees this year. I couldn’t be happier with the excellence and diversity of this group:

Alessandra Sanguinetti

Born in New York, 1968. Currently lives and works in New York. Sanguinetti is a recipient of a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship and a Hasselblad Foundation grant. Her photographs are in major public and private collections, such as the Museum of Modern Art (NY), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Her monograph, “On the Sixth Day”, was published by Nazraeli Press in January 2006.

Jacob Aue Sobol

Jacob Aue Sobol studied photography at the European Film College in Denmark and the Danish School of Photographic Visual Art. His work has been exhibited at the Museum of Photography and the Fototrienniale of Odense, the Harbourfront Center, Toronto, and the Faulconer Gallery, Iowa, amongst others. He has won the 2006 World Press Photo Prize in the category of Daily Life Stories.

Mikhael Subotzky
Mikhael Subotzky was born on 15 September 1981, in Cape Town, South Africa. He graduated with a distinction, from the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town, Bachelor of Arts (Fine Art), 2004.

June 24, 2007

Paris Minnesota

Filed under: Paris, MN — alecsothblog @ 11:37 pm

As the winner of my recent portfolio review challenge, Grant Ernhart will be receiving a signed photograph from my new publication, Paris Minnesota:


Info about the project:

June 22, 2007

Friday Poem

Filed under: poetry — alecsothblog @ 2:34 am

Pigeons at Dawn
by Charles Simic

Extraordinary efforts are being made
To hide things from us, my friend.
Some stay up into the wee hours
To search their souls.
Others undress each other in darkened rooms.

The creaky old elevator
Took us down to the icy cellar first
To show us a mop and a bucket
Before it deigned to ascend again
With a sigh of exasperation.

Under the vast, early-dawn sky
The city lay silent before us.
Everything on hold:
Rooftops and water towers,
Clouds and wisps of white smoke.

We must be patient, we told ourselves,
See if the pigeons will coo now
For the one who comes to her window
To feed them angel cake,
All but invisible, but for her slender arm.

June 21, 2007


Filed under: lectures and exhibitions — alecsothblog @ 12:09 am

Today (Thursday, June 21) I’m going to be on The Leonard Lopate Show from 1:15-2:00pm Eastern Time.

On Friday, June 22nd I’ll be at the opening for Jen Bekman’s exhibition, The New American Portrait.

Speaking of summer shows, on Friday Gagosian Gallery will be hanging nine pictures from Niagara. And Yossi Milo has another Niagara image in his Summer Bride exhibition.

June 15, 2007

Friday Poem

Filed under: poetry — alecsothblog @ 1:17 am

The Seventh Inning
by Donald Hall

1. Baseball, I warrant, is not the whole
occupation of the aging boy.
Far from it: There are cats and roses;
there is her water body. She fills
the skin of her legs up, like water;
under her blouse, water assembles,
swelling lukewarm; her mouth is water,
her cheekbones cool water; water flows
in her rapid hair. I drink water

2. from her body as she walks past me
to open a screen door, as she bends
to weed among herbs, or as she lies
beside me at five in the morning
in submarine light. Curt Davis threw
a submarine ball, terrifying
to right-handed batters. Another
pleasure, thoroughly underrated,
is micturition, which is even

3. commoner than baseball. It begins
by announcing itself more slowly
and less urgently than sexual
desire, but (confusingly) in the
identical place. Ignorant men
therefore on occasion confuse beer-
drinking with love; but I have discussed
adultery elsewhere. We allow
this sweet release to commence itself,

4. addressing a urinal perhaps,
perhaps poised over a white toilet
with feet spread wide and head tilted back:
oh, what’delicious permission! what
luxury of letting go! what luxe
yellow curve of mildest ecstasy!
Granted we may not compare it to
poignant and crimson bliss, it is as
voluptuous as rain all night long

5. after baseball in August’s parch. The
jade plant’s trunk, as thick as a man’s wrist,
urges upward thrusting from packed dirt,
with Chinese vigor spreading limbs out
that bear heavy leaves—palpable, dark,
juicy, green, profound: They suck, the way
bleacher fans claim inhabitants of
box seats do. The Fourth of July we
exhaust stars from sparklers in the late

6. twilight. We swoop ovals of white-gold
flame, making quick signatures against
an imploding dark. The five-year-old
girl kisses the young dog goodbye and
chases the quick erratic kitten.
When she returns in a few years as
a tall shy girl, she will come back to
a dignified spreading cat and a
dog ash-gray on the muzzle. Sparklers

7. expel quickly this night of farewell:
If they didn’t burn out, they wouldn’t
be beautiful. Kurt, may I hazard
an opinion on expansion? Last
winter meetings, the major leagues (al-
ready meager in ability,
scanty in starting pitchers) voted
to add two teams. Therefore minor league
players will advance all too quickly,

8. with boys in the bigs who wouldn’t have
made double-A forty years ago.
Directors of player personnel
will search like poets scrambling in old
notebooks for unused leftover lines,
but when was the last time anyone
cut back when he or she could expand?
Kurt, I get the notion that you were
another who never discarded

9. anything, a keeper from way back.
You smoked cigarettes, in inflation-
times rolled from chopped-up banknotes, billions
inhaled and exhaled as cancerous
smoke. When commerce woke, Men was awake.
If you smoked a cigar, the cigar
band discovered itself glued into
collage. Ongoing life became the
material of Kurtschwittersball.

June 12, 2007

Erotic baseball photography

Filed under: baseball — alecsothblog @ 10:29 pm

Kent Wallace, pitcher, Oneonta Yankees, Oneonta, New York, 1992

I’ve previous mentioned Andrea Modica twice (here and here), but failed to mention her terrific pictures of Minor League baseball players. Modica was interviewed about the work as part of the Smithsonian Photographers at Work series:

How did your series of pictures of baseball players come about?

I was on a date and we went to a baseball game. Now I had absolutely no interest in or knowledge of the game at that point, but I live in a tiny town and one thing you can do in the summer is go to a ball game. Although I wasn’t interested in the game, I could get a close look at these players, because in minor league baseball you can sit right near the field. They’re very close. So this pitcher walked in front of me and I noticed his cheekbones. I thought, “My, what fabulous cheekbones, and how that little cap sets them off.” While I watched the game, I wondered who on earth would choose this for a career. I mean, hitting this little ball around seemed so silly. These guys work very hard, they make very little money, and maybe two percent of minor league players go on to the major leagues. Knowing that, I was really curious about why they would do it, and I thought about this so much that it occurred to me, almost in a dream, to photograph these players. And I’ll tell you something, I woke up in a cold sweat. I was so scared of this particular project.

Why did you make portraits of the players rather than pictures of the game being played?

Because of my intense curiosity about them. After putting it off for a while, I contacted the team owner and asked if I could do this. He said yes, if I also got the team manager to agree. Sometimes when I was working with these guys they exhibited certain behavior that made me very uncomfortable, which was hard to deal with. But a certain discomfort was also a part of the family project.

You find this tension surrounding your differences with certain people stimulating?

I figure that if photographing a situation makes me this nervous there must be something for me to learn, and that makes it worth doing. It’s not only about taking good pictures.

I like that Modica is honest about her fears and her motivation. These pictures are as much about great cheekbones as they are about baseball. There is even a homoerotic quality to some of the pictures:

Ray Suplee and Kraig Hawkins, Oneonta Yankees, Oneonta, New York, 1992

More from Modica:

Initially, I might be interested in someone’s cheekbones, but when I’m ready to take the guy’s picture maybe his buddy comes along. What happens between the buddies? In the pictures of couples or groups, what becomes apparent is perhaps a power play. Sometimes it appears that one person has a little more power over the other. Remember, these players are highly competitive but they also really need each other – they need to work together closely. Well, one day two players showed up for a photograph – now, I hadn’t asked them to pose together – but the pitching coach later explained to me that one was a shortstop and the other a second baseman, and they were “married” on the field. It was curious that they wanted to be photographed together.

This homoerotic element brings to mind the work of Bruce Weber. I can’t find any Weber baseball pictures, but he did use this image of Marlon Brando by Sam Shaw on the cover of one of his All-American Magazines:

Marlon Brando by Sam Shaw

Inside the magazine, Shaw’s daughter, Meta Shaw Stevens, talks about the picture:

It was the early 50’s at an Actors Studio party in Connecticut. Marlon was playing baseball in a tight bathing suit. The suit had a rip in the back and I remember him picking up a flower (daisy) and putting it in where the hole was. The rest of the day he walked around with that flower sticking out. It was great!

In another Smithsonian Photographers at Work book, Bruce Weber is asked about the homoerotic quality of his work:

I think any kind of sexuality in a photograph is really determined by the person looking at the photograph. It has become increasingly hard today for photographers to be able to express their sexual feelings in photographs – and its definitely important to express them. I feel very strongly about that.

I agree with Weber that it is important, but I’m not sure it is increasingly hard to express these feelings. However, he said that in 1992 – long before the web explosion. A lot has changed. And perhaps something has been lost. I love the slightly sublimated sexuality that creeps into photographic specialties like sports or even science photography. Eadweard Muybridge is a good example:


Read Eric Carroll’s post on Muybridge here

Read about Sports Illustrated’s ‘landmark moment in baseball homoeroticism’ here

June 11, 2007

Corking the camera

Filed under: baseball,quotes — alecsothblog @ 8:09 am

I’m a sucker for a good sports metaphor. The last two nights I’ve hung out with Todd Deutsch. Maybe because Todd is a baseball fan and Little League dad, I’m in the mood for a good baseball analogy. Batting, it seems to me, is a lot like photography. Whether you are a slugger like Gursky or a contact hitter like Erwitt, the rules of hitting are mostly the same. Perhaps these tips from Jack Aker might also apply to photography:

  • Have no fear — in order to hit you must stay in the box at a distance from the plate from which you can hit any pitch in the strike zone.

  • Have a balanced stance — if you are not comfortable and relaxed in the box, you will tighten up, which will keep you from swinging quickly and smoothly.

  • Keep your eye on the ball — this is not just a cliche. Try to see the ball while it is still in the pitcher’s hand, and follow it all the way to the plate. Try to see your bat hit the ball. When you take a pitch, or don’t swing, watch the ball all the way into the catcher’s mitt.

  • Grip the bat loosely — your fingers and hands should not tighten up on the bat until you are actually starting your swing. If you squeeze the bat while awaiting the pitch, you will tighten up your arms and shoulders and you won’t be as quick with your swing.

  • Don’t overswing — if you are thinking only about hitting home runs, your swing will be out of control, and you will probably pull your head away and take your eye off the ball. The result – you’ll strike out. Think only of making sharp contact and putting the ball into play.

  • Learn the strike zone — although a few pitches which are just out of the strike zone may be hit for base hits, most of your safeties will come on pitches which are in your strike zone. Every batter’s strike zone is different. Learn your strike zone. Be patient and swing at strikes only.

Or maybe photography is more like flyfishing. I’ve always loved this quote from Stephen Shore’s 1982 edition of Uncommon Places:

Color film is wonderful because it shows not only the intensity but the color of light. There is so much variation in light between noon one day and the next, between ten in the morning and two in the afternoon. A picture happens when something inside connects, an experience that changes as the photographer does. When the picture is there, I set out the 8×10 camera, walk around it, get behind it, put the hood over my head, perhaps move it over a foot, walk in front, fiddle with the lens, the aperture, the shutter speed. I enjoy the camera. Beyond that it is difficult to explain the process of photographing except by analogy:

The trout streams where I flyfish are cold and clear and rich in the minerals that promote the growth of stream life. As I wade a stream I think wordlessly of where to cast the fly. Sometimes a difference of inches is the difference between catching a fish and not. When the fly I’ve cast is on the water my attention is riveted to it. I’ve found through experience that whenever- or so it seems – my attention wanders or I look away then surely a fish will rise to the fly and I will be too late setting the hook. I watch the fly calmly and attentively so that when the fish strikes – I strike. Then the line tightens, the playing of the fish begins, and time stands still. Fishing, like photography, is an art that calls forth intelligence, concentration, and delicacy.

Or maybe photography is like cricket. The fantastic photographer Trent Parke (who just opened a show at the Alice Austen House Museum on Staten Island) is also a former professional cricket player. When I see Trent next week, I’ll ask him if he has any good cricket tips to pass along.

June 8, 2007

Friday Poem

Filed under: poetry — alecsothblog @ 3:41 am

Kissing Stieglitz Good-Bye
by Gerald Stern

Every city in America is approached
through a work of art, usually a bridge
but sometimes a road that curves underneath
or drops down from the sky. Pittsburgh has a tunnel—

you don’t know it—that takes you through the rivers
and under the burning hills. I went there to cry
in the woods or carry my heavy bicycle
through fire and flood. Some have little parks—

San Francisco has a park. Albuquerque
is beautiful from a distance; it is purple
at five in the evening. New York is Egyptian,
especially from the little rise on the hill

at 14-C; it has twelve entrances
like the body of Jesus, and Easton, where I lived,
has two small floating bridges in front of it
that brought me in and out. I said good-bye

to them both when I was 57. I’m reading
Joseph Wood Krutch again—the second time.
I love how he lived in the desert. I’m looking at the skull
of Georgia O’Keeffe. I’m kissing Stieglitz good-bye.

He was a city, Stieglitz was truly a city
in every sense of the word; he wore a library
across his chest; he had a church on his knees.
I’m kissing him good-bye; he was, for me,

the last true city; after him there were
only overpasses and shopping centers,
little enclaves here and there, a skyscraper
with nothing near it, maybe a meaningless turf

where whores couldn’t even walk, where nobody sits,
where nobody either lies or runs; either that
or some pure desert: a lizard under a boojum,
a flower sucking the water out of a rock.

What is the life of sadness worth, the bookstores
lost, the drugstores buried, a man with a stick
turning the bricks up, numbering the shards,
dream twenty-one, dream twenty-two. I left

with a glass of tears, a little artistic vial.
I put it in my leather pockets next
to my flask of Scotch, my golden knife and my keys,
my joyful poems and my T-shirts. Stieglitz is there

beside his famous number; there is smoke
and fire above his head; some bowlegged painter
is whispering in his ear; some lady-in-waiting
is taking down his words. I’m kissing Stieglitz

good-bye, my arms are wrapped around him, his photos
are making me cry; we’re walking down Fifth Avenue;
we’re looking for a pencil; there is a girl
standing against the wall—I’m shaking now

when I think of her; there are two buildings, one
is in blackness, there is a dying poplar;
there is a light on the meadow; there is a man
on a sagging porch. I would have believed in everything.

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