Alec Soth's Archived Blog

September 24, 2007


Filed under: Cat,goof — alecsothblog @ 10:55 pm

Last June I went to a party in New York. Alex Majoli was there and he said to me, “there is a guy here who looks exactly like you.” I forget his name, but this Cuban fellow really did feel like my Doppelgänger. I remember that when I looked at him, I couldn’t help but cover my own face:

A friend recently saw the movie 2 Days in Paris and told me that Adam Goldberg reminded him a lot of me:

But today takes the prize. A reader sent a link to a picture of the singer Devendra Banhart. When I first saw this image, I thought it was bad Photoshop fakery. (It isn’t, see the source here). Holy Crap! Is this guy my Bizarro Doppelgänger:

Yep, that is Chan

September 22, 2007


Filed under: Cat,goof — alecsothblog @ 3:49 pm

Yesterday I got home from a ritzy junket business trip to LA. My plane was late so my wife and I didn’t have much time to celebrate our 11th anniversary. Back at the house, Rachel gave me a card. “You’re more than just a funny, smart and lovable guy,” it said, “you’re mine.” Inside she wrote:


Beverly Hills, 9/21/07

August 27, 2007


Filed under: goof,jump the sandwich,quizes & assignments — alecsothblog @ 10:26 am

A photography professor recently asked me how I was able to find time for this blog. The reason, I speculated, was that I wasn’t a photography professor. Teaching seems to draw from the same well as blogging. And after two weeks at the San Francisco Art Institute, my well is just about dry.

Please bear with me. It might take a couple of months to recover. Nevertheless, I promised to grade one last assignment: Jump the Sandwich

The goal of my recent sandwich jump critique was to push participants toward a looser style. Jens Holzapfel responded with an excellent version of ‘Munching by the Mississippi’:

photo by Jens Holzapfel

A couple more loose entries:

Monte Cristo sandwich plus Foreigner’s “Juke Box Hero” (photo by Chase Allgood)

photo by Nicolaprincipato

photo by Michael Larky

Initially Michael Larky thought the photographer was supposed to do the jumping. I love the result. It looks like a picture Lise Sarfati might take while tripping:

photo by Michael Larky

Shawngust ignored my encouragement of looseness and made a picture that was tight in more ways than one:

photo by Shawn Gust

This seems to be a mini-trend in sandwich jumping photography:

photo by Guy Batey

As with my students in San Francisco, the sandwich jumpers turned my theories and expectations upside down. I’m not an enormous fan of either Duane Michaels or Francesca Woodman, but when Marissa Long and Andy McMillan put them together like slices of bread in a mystical sandwich (with the cat as ham and the hand shadow as cheese) the result is pure photographic magic. And before you ask, no, they didn’t use Photoshop to achive this effect.

Dear readers, here is your 2007 JTS winner:

photo by Marissa Long and Andy McMillan

  • To see all of the entries, go here

August 20, 2007

Location scouting

Filed under: goof,jump the sandwich — alecsothblog @ 11:48 pm

The ‘Happy Days’ room at the FantaSuite Hotel in West Bend, Wisconsin. Take the 360° tour here. Speaking of Happy Days, didn’t this all start with Fonzie?

August 19, 2007

‘Jump the Sandwich’ update

Filed under: goof,jump the sandwich,vernacular & Flickr — alecsothblog @ 11:59 am

I’m going to accept Sandwich Jumping assignments for another week. Entries should be posted at by Sunday, August 26th. Soon after I’ll announce the winner. Here is what I’ve seen so far.

photo by Mad_lips

photo by mph.silva

photo by Evephotographer

photo by Petermaxlawrence

This one scares me (I’m not sure I want this contest to be associated with the ‘Bloody Shots‘ pool):

photo by sam_252499

photo by dougphoto_com

photo by whileseated

Whileseated (Michael David Murphy) has the most popular ‘Sandwich Jump’ on Flickr. And while I’m a fan of Michael’s work (go to his website here) and I appreciate the technical prowess of both photographer and model, everything is a bit too perfect. I prefer the disorder of this picture:

photo by adrian1tyler1net

This picture reminds me a lot of Whileseated’s:

photo by LNpom

Again, this kind of virtuosity leaves me cold. But in her comments section, LNpom shows the picture without the post-processing:

photo by LNpom

This picture seemed much more alive. I wrote to LNpom to ask if I could have a full-sized version. In her reply, the French photographer described the challenges of making the picture: “It was not so easy because I did that alone and managing to be “flying” at the time of the flash AND in the frame AND looking at the camera is hard job. I usually don’t dress like that but I had in mind a flying pin up (like the american ones during the 50’s) with a sandwich.”

I also asked LNpom if she could send me a less ‘perfect’ exposure. The picture she sent gets at the spirit of the assignment. The ripples on the wall are a perfect example of Barthe’s idea of punctum. For me they evoke rubber rooms. Combined with LNpom’s pin-up idea, I imagine Marilyn Monroe if she’d been hospitalized before her suicide:

photo by LNpom

August 12, 2007

Assignment: Jump the…

Filed under: goof,jump the sandwich,quizes & assignments — alecsothblog @ 11:12 pm

The Urban Dictionary defines the term Jump the Shark as:

To reach the point where the popularity of a show, movie, musician, or any other pop culture icon declines in popularity. Original meaning was the point when a television series shows it has run out of ideas and must resort to stunts to retain viewer interest (refers to an episode of The 1960’s TV show, “Happy Days” where Fonz jumps over a shark while water skiing, see also Jump the Couch).

After last week’s Flickr fireworks, I might just be ready to make the leap. But for the next couple of weeks I’m going to be teaching at the San Francisco Art Institute. Since I won’t have much time for the blog, I thought I’d hand out an assignment. I’m going to give the same assignment to my students in SFAI:


One of the fascinating things about Flickr is the phenomenon of Flickr groups. A couple of my favorites are Girls Eating Sandwiches and Bed Jumpers:

photos by A.R.E. (left) and Mirandala (right)

Your assignment, if you choose to accept it:

1) Photograph a woman* eating a sandwich** while jumping*** onto a bed.
2) Post the picture**** here:
3) I will award a prize to my favorite assignment.

*I will consider men with long hair, men wearing high heels or men who wear panties and lingerie
**Extra points will be given for grilled cheese sandwiches and/or UK sandwiches
*** I will consider this activity as an alternative to jumping
****Diptychs will be considered

February 28, 2007

The Body and The Wall

Filed under: goof,quotes — alecsothblog @ 1:32 am

Official portrait of former MN Gov. Jesse ‘the Body’ Ventura (more info here)

There has been a lot of chatter online about the recent NYTimes profile of Jeff Wall (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here), but I’m the first to make this connection:

  • You have to forget about the idea of the spirit of the place. It’s one of the big, consoling myths of people who live nowhere. Jeff Wall
  • Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers. Jesse Ventura
  • I’m a more affectionate person than I thought I was. I like trees or I like people’s faces. That’s one reason I think my work has changed. I realized I wasn’t interested in filtering my affection for things through certain levels of mediation. Jeff Wall
  • If I could be reincarnated as a fabric, I would come back as a 38 double-D bra. Jesse Ventura
  • The aesthetic norm of fragmentation implies that the avant-garde movements made a fundamental and irreversible break with the past. The art of the past is defined as “organically unified,” art that does not want to recognize its own contingent character, its own fragile illusionism. It wants to revel in the illusionism, for its own sake and for the sake of its audience, and it wants to seem to be inevitable and complete, the creation of magicians. This is what is called the “genius ideology.” Tearing apart the organic work of art was the accomplishment of the avant-garde, which revealed the inner mechanics of traditional illusionistic art, the stagecraft of the masterpiece. To a great extent, I agree with that process, and I like a lot of avant-garde art very much; it’s very important to me. But I feel that it’s an unfree way of relating to it to erect it as an absolute standard, against the aspects of the unified work which I like. I like the idea of the unified work because I like pictures, and there is always a sense in which a picture exists as [such] through its unification, [through] its precisely pictorial unification. I think the art of the past is not as unified as the avant-garde polemic needed for it to be, or[ made it] appear to be. There are always acknowledgments of contingency and a sense of alternatives in good work from earlier times, probably very far back in time. So, firstly, there probably is no completely unified work, outside some very specific limits, at least, none in the tradition that we’ve been talking about. But there is the phenomenon of unity in a work, the way it might be experienced as a unity, even if, when you look closer at it, it displays or at least indicates, or hints at, its own contingency. That phenomenon, that moment of appearance, that moment of the experience of the work’s unity, remains important. That moment, that instant, will always be there when we experience good art, even if we are experiencing a work which rejects the whole idea of unity, like in radical avant-garde or neo-avant-garde art. So, I see the unity of the work of art as an unavoidable moment of the making and of the experiencing of any work. There is a dialectic in all of this, not two antithetical forms, each complete in themselves, one coming after the other in time and rendering the first one “obsolete”–a favorite polemical term of the proponents of the new orthodoxy. And, just an aside, I would say that it was always my experience that the criticisms aimed against so-called pre-Modern art were not terribly accurate, and they were tendentious, in that by trying so hard to break away from the past, a lot of avant-garde artists and writers, critics let’s say, exaggerated the flaws or weaknesses of the art of the past so that they could get away from it. That’s just a rhetoric of the avant-garde, and the times made it necessary; OK., but let’s not live under that as some kind of law now. You look at so-called pre-modern art–I say ‘so-called’ because I don’t really think it’s un-modern’whether it’s Caravaggio or Botticelli or Durer, it’s not as unified as those writers made it out to be. The antithesis between avant-garde art and “museum art” is less pronounced than the avant-garde wanted it to be. Older art is much richer and more nuanced than a lot of the arguments give it credit for being. It’s kind of obvious by now, how adolescent a lot of avant-gardist attitudes were- the “burn the museum” attitude from the 20’s, from Dada through the 60’s. Jeff Wall
  • I asked him [Dalai Lama] the most important question that I think you could ask – if he had ever seen Caddy Shack. Jesse Ventura

December 14, 2006

Static Master & Power Shammy

Filed under: goof — alecsothblog @ 12:44 am

In three months of blogging, I’ve restrained myself by only mentioning Paul Shambroom three times. Paul has been a longtime hero. Beyond the greatness of his work, his career as a Minnesota artist has provided a significant role model for me.

But as Buddha said “Embrace nothing. If you meet the Buddha, Kill the Buddha.” I guess this is why I have a need to tease Paul by calling him “ruggedly handsome” and “Power Shambroom.”

But now I have the ultimate material to take Paul down. He recently sent me an email with the Subject Line: Dear “Eccentric-sad Americans by iconic water with big camera” guy. Here is the content of the email:

Dear Mr. Soth-

Please help unravel a mystery. You seem like a smart guy, the kind of guy who understands complex connections between seemingly disconnected things. After reading on your blog about people like Mitch Epstein who don’t have Wikipedia entries, I checked myself for the first time. (OK, it was the first time this week.) I discovered that I don’t have one either! It’s like I don’t exist. Just then a strange thing happened. I took a sip of coffee and noticed a warm liquid seeping into my lap. Yes, I’m getting old, but not “Depends” old, if you know what I mean. It turns out that the coffee was coming out from between my ribs. I’m slowly disappearing. A look in the mirror confirmed that I’m not all there!


Are you with me so far? Now it gets REALLY complicated. I had just received a package, a Russian magazine with some of my photos in it. (Also lots of cars, electronics, and naked women. Competition for the Russian Maxim, I guess.) I noticed the UPS envelope from Moscow was sitting on my desk RIGHT NEXT TO my trusty 1982-vintage Static-Master negative cleaning brush. A while ago I did a calculation based on the half-life of Polonium 210 (138.4 days) after 24 years, which gave a result of 8.8383e-20 for the relative strength of my Static-Master source. I don’t understand scientific notation too well, but I know that’s a REALLY small number. Feeling well in the safety zone, I had started using my Static-Master to stir my coffee. Yesterday (before the leaking episode) I noticed that my coffee was warmer AFTER I stirred it! A coincidence? I don’t think so.


My physical self is fading AND I don’t exist on-line because I don’t have a Wikipedia entry. I’m fading away like a cyber-space Cheshire Cat! What’s happening to me? Are these things connected?

Here’s my theory- I think the Russians put a replacement Static-Master with a fresh Polonium source in the magazine package. Plus- I believe I used to have a glorious multi-page Wikipedia entry with links, illustrations, testimonials from old girlfriends, etc, but it was removed (by those same Russians) before I ever saw it!

There are some holes in this theory, though. I was hoping, Alec, you could help me tie up these loose ends:

  • Why didn’t the FBI agents (who usually sit in a truck outside my studio disguised as Qwest employees) do something to intervene? (sorry I’m getting ahead of myself and should explain- they’ve been there since my nuclear weapons project, some other guys have joined them since I’ve been working on Homeland Security.)
  • How did the Russians know I stir my coffee with my Static-Master? (Wait, I know- they hacked into the iSight camera on my new MacBook.)
  • How did they switch my OLD Static-Master with the new one (nano-robots inside the UPS package?)
  • Most puzzling- what was the motive? Were the Russians mad at me because I never photographed THEIR nuclear weapons (or their town council meetings, as if godless ex-communists even have those)? Are they working WITH the guys in the Qwest truck?

Needless to say, I am quite unsettled by all this. I was hoping that you could help solve this. Or, if you’re too busy farting around in Kentucky, or perhaps just not smart enough, maybe the brilliant readers of your blog could help. It would give me great comfort to have closure in my final days in the physical world.

Sincerely yours, Paul Shambroom

I’m worried about Paul. Can someone help? Can we get the guy a Wikipedia entry and/or an endorsement deal with Power Shammy?

October 29, 2006

Marden-mania at the Times

Filed under: goof,media — alecsothblog @ 4:05 pm

Dear New York Times editorial staff, I enjoyed reading Roberta Smith’s review of the Marden retrospective last Friday. As you might remember, I also enjoyed reading about Marden’s paper towel preference in last week’s fashion section. But enough is enough. In today’s Art Section I read: “On a bright fall day last month, the artist Brice Marden piloted his black Range Rover across a Hudson River bridge in the kind of late afternoon sun that he cherishes.” The New York Times has the most valuable real estate in arts journalism. Do you really need to use the front page of the Sunday Arts section to profile Marden’s four extravagant residences? (What about mine?)


October 25, 2006

Photog Endorsements

Filed under: goof — alecsothblog @ 1:49 pm

In my Brawny vs. Bounty post, rugged Midwesterner Paul Shambroom writes that I’ve “pioneered the viability of photographers as celebrity endorsers.” But I’m afraid Ansel beat me to the punch in 1969 (the year of my birth) with his endorsement of Hills Bros. Coffee:


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