Alec Soth's Archived Blog

November 6, 2006

Advice for freelancers

Filed under: editorial photo — alecsothblog @ 5:52 pm

John Loomis vents and offers up some good advice for freelancers on his blog. It took me awhile to learn this lesson:

My usual MO now with the NYT and other clients who have given me problems in the past is to never say “yes” first. The first question is always “are you free?” and I answer, “maybe, what’s the story.” If I don’t like the story, or think its going to be too much hassle for the money, I politely say that I can’t do it.

November 5, 2006

Kiki Smith & Nan Goldin

Filed under: artists,editorial photo — alecsothblog @ 9:37 pm

I was recently asked by a magazine (not the NY Times) to photograph Kiki Smith. Because of a scheduling conflict I was unable to do it. I’m both disappointed and relieved. I’m disappointed because this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine profile by Michael Kimmelman described her as an electrifying character. She seems to have great insight into sustaining the creative impulse:

The hardest thing is to get past your taste – past your own formulaic way of doing things. Otherwise you’re stopped by what you know, which is limited. Chance is what a lot of artists use. In my case, I’ll arrange ways for things to be unpredictable.

The reason I’m relieved is because I’d hate to make a picture of Smith after seeing Nan Goldin’s fantastic portrait:

Nan Goldin for The New York Times

Goldin doesn’t do a ton of editorial work, but when she does it is very good. I still haven’t forgotten the NY Times Magazine story she did in 1996 on the model James King (see one of the images here).

At times I think Goldin has fallen into the ‘formulaic way of doing things’ that Smith describes. What photographer hasn’t? Editorial work, is seems to me, is one way to push into something unpredictable.

October 15, 2006

Andrea Modica & Newsweek

Filed under: editorial photo,media — alecsothblog @ 8:27 am

Has anyone else noticed that Andrea Modica has been doing a lot of editorial work for Newsweek? Modica is one of my all-time favorite photographers. Her book Treadwell is a masterpiece. While I’m always happy to come across her pictures in Newsweek, the surrounding news-magazine clutter often disappoints me. For example, the 10/16/06 issue of Newsweek has a story called Fixing America’s Hospitals. Within the piece is this fantastic image by Modica:


But Modica wasn’t the only one assigned to the story. The much more prominent full-page intro has the following photo illustration:


This use of photography brings the medium down to the lowest common denominator. What is the point? If anything it pushes me away from reading the story. I understand that weekly news magazines are under huge deadlines and need to fill the pages. But do we need so much photo-filler? The photographs in another weekly, The New Yorker, are exceptionally powerful because of their restraint. What if Modica’s image was the only one used in the story? Wouldn’t it be so much better?

September 18, 2006

Robert Adams and Star Magazine

Filed under: editorial photo,photographs (mine) — alecsothblog @ 10:44 pm

The beautiful thing about blogging is that you start seeing things as connected. Today I was reading Along Some Rivers, Photographs and Conversations with Robert Adams. In an interview from 2005, Adams is asked, “What disappoints you most about America now?” His answer:

The tyranny of popular culture – the widespread confusion of coarseness with strength, of loudness with significance, of novelty with value. On public radio, for example, Terry Gross spends hours discussing the minutiae of trash TV and movies. For which there is always this cost: those who think and create in more discriminating ways are left less understood and less supported, exactly where corporate America wants them to be left – marginalized, posing no threat to commercial advertising and political propaganda.

After reading this I received an email alerting me that some pictures I’d taken for Blackbook magazine (not yet on the stands) had been reproduced in Star Magazine. I’m not going to go as far as equating Terry Gross with trash media, but maybe I should be worried when I get excited about seeing my name in Star (with an exclamation mark, no less!):


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