Alec Soth's Archived Blog

July 16, 2007

Soth-Blog Code of Conduct, Article 1

Filed under: on blogging — alecsothblog @ 9:52 pm

We embrace your diversity of opinions and values but must insist that your content not include discussions on the subject of digital vs. film photography.

Participants who violate this code will be escorted out of the blog. Thank you,

May 23, 2007


Filed under: on blogging,psa — alecsothblog @ 10:30 pm

Tired of checking for blog updates? Try Google Reader. It is an easy way to check all of your favorite blogs at once.

Why blog when you could be doing porn?

Filed under: artists,on blogging,quotes — alecsothblog @ 1:05 am

Yesterday came the question, “Why did I think I needed a blog?” Looking for an answer, my first Google search led to an evangelical bloggers Top 50 Reasons to Blog. Here is one:

This is what I’ve called the ‘Google Parable’: Reciprocal linkage helps all the boats on the (search engine) river rise. Actually, Jesus said it first, “Love one another; prefer one another”. But if we won’t listen to Jesus, perhaps the new-paradigm giant will convince us. Networks of ‘driven’ Christians can impact society more than individuals or self-serving churches.

But I’m not sure that either Jesus or the ‘new-paradigm giant’ is the right answer for me.

Next I turned to the Washington Post. In an article entitled Bloggers on the Reasons Behind Their Daily Words, this fellow was quoted:

Having lived with the same woman for nearly 20 years and learning from her that nothing I had to say was ever right, I discovered early that things worked best between us if I would just keep my mouth shut. Well, one can only imagine what it must have felt like after the kids were grown and we finally parted company. I could actually begin to write and speak my mind without the slightest fear of reprisal or being made to feel like an idiot. I understood what the freedom to speech was truly about.

That one doesn’t quite work either. I’m not looking for my blog to replace my wife. But I guess it does fulfill a certain kind of social need. “We read about the Cedar Tavern, and it sounds so romantic,” I said in a recent interview with ArtKrush, “but what if you live in Minneapolis with two kids? The blog is as close as I get to the Cedar Tavern.”

But the truth is that I can’t blame Minneapolis and the two kids. I’ll never forget going to one of the artist parties for the 2004 Whitney Biennial. I felt like I was in high school and had accidentally stumbled into the cool-kids party. I approached one well-established artist and introduced myself. She didn’t even respond before turning around and walking away.

One of the artists at that party was Zak Smith. We didn’t talk much, but he actually seemed smart and nice. Since that time, we’ve both acquired new hobbies. I’ve started blogging and Zak has started doing porn.

Smith’s motivation for his hobby doesn’t seem too different from my own. “I’m living off my paintings and have been for years,” he said in a recent interview, “I’m involved in porn mostly because the social life of the art world is like living death.”

Whatever you think about Zak Smith or his Zak Sabbath alter-ego, he is an engaging conversationalist. Read this exchange from a fantastic interview about Smith’s book, Pictures Showing What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon’s Novel Gravity’s Rainbow:

Terri Saul: Gravity’s Rainbow is one of the most drug-ridden novels ever written. When considering your illustrations of it, I thought about Glenn Gould, a musician who experimented with both drugs and classical music. Do you ever use drugs while working?

Zak Smith: 1-Drugs are very popular among people who are interested in interesting things but are not themselves very interesting.

2-Drugs make your body do weird things–so they’re interesting if you’re in the performing arts.

3-Drugs make boring things seem interesting, so products created by people while they are on drugs are often really boring.

Glenn Gould is a pretty good example of all three of these propositions–his rendition of Webern’s piano opus–(23 or 28?)–is amazing, but when he sits down and writes his own stuff, he’s terrible and derivative.

What I do–and what most fine artists do–is not a performing art, so drugs just do to you what they do to everyone else: they make you suck and then waste everyone’s time pretending you sucked for some non-drug reason.

I mean, in art school if there was some minimalist who made like a 2 by 4 except it was purposefully off by a quarter-inch and that was their art, you knew that guy was either on speed or a big pothead. When you look at all that crap conceptual art from the sixties and seventies–drugs.

Anyone with half an eyeball knows Victor Moscoso is obviously waaaaaaaay better then Andy Warhol–unless you’re on LSD, in which case they’re both exactly the same–green next to magenta, fuuuuuuck duuuuude. Then you sober up and have to defend how much you liked it and well, Andy’s got some old photo of Jackie O in it so you pretend you like it because it was like socially relevant and shit and Victor Moscocco just has a cool picture of a dinosaur so you just pretend you never saw it.

Big muddy neo-expressionist art that looks exactly like every other big muddy painting anyone accidentally made ever? Cocaine.

The funny part is then the critics have to scramble back to their desks and write 80-page essays about why they think Andy Warhol is good that DON’T just say “Sorry, sorry, I was on drugs.”

Terri Saul: Gravity’s Rainbow is a book–at least in part–about how information can tend toward entropy. What is your view of our current information-saturated culture?

Zak Smith: Ok, here’s a view–in newspapers with huge circulations we got headlines saying the president is a felon who lies about pretty much everything all the time and doesn’t know where Sweden is and most people in his country either don’t vote or decide to re-elect him and I got a myspace page which says “Don’t send blind friend requests, explain who you are first” and I get blind friend requests every day.

Information is only information if people are not total morons–however, people are total morons. Therefore we do not live in an information-saturated culture, we live in a Brad-Pitt-and-whatshername-just-had-a-baby- saturated-culture where smart people who care can find what they need when they have to if they’re lucky and we always have and we always will.

Makes me wish Zak Smith had a blog. (A great example of how he would handle readers here). But, then again, maybe I should be doing porn.

May 21, 2007

back online?

Filed under: on blogging — alecsothblog @ 10:27 pm

I’m home from a couple of weeks of shooting and have almost nothing to say. I saw two shows (Tim Davis and Candida Höfer at the Knoxville Museum of Art), listened to two audio books (Black Dahlia and The Hoax) and watched most of Season 3 of The Wire.

Nothing to say.

After 4,000 miles alone in the van I’ve forgotten how to spiel. And I’m not sure this is a bad thing. My friend Eric recently linked to an article called Surviving a Month Without Internet (Interestingly, the author Stephen Elliot also mentions that he spent time watching The Wire):

I wasn’t just breaking the Internet habit, I was breaking the habits I had learned on the Internet: that addiction to continual bursts of small information.

I started reading a lot more books, which is good for me since I’m a person who writes books. And I read more challenging books…I could feel my attention span lengthening…

I made some decisions for my own Internet usage when I got back online. The first thing I did was replace my blog with an advertisement for my books. Why did I think I needed a blog?


March 23, 2007

Two Thumbs Undecided

Filed under: crying & flying,on blogging — alecsothblog @ 1:39 am

In an excellent recent post, Jen Bekman said something I’ve been meaning to say: “Just because I’m writing about something doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m recommending it.”

I just returned home from a trip to California. While I was gone I only managed to put together two meager posts. The first was twenty-six words pointing readers to Chad Muthard’s Photo Final Four. The second was seven words comparing the work of David LaChapelle and Jill Greenberg.

Both of these posts generated a good deal of feedback. Since I’ve highlighted these subjects many readers think I’m recommending them. I’m not. “If I don’t specifically say I like it, or don’t,” writes Jen, “it means that I haven’t decided. (And I might never even give it enough thought to form an opinion.)”

I can see how this might be frustrating for readers. But Jen is right – opinions take time. I’m not interested in splattering my gut reaction. Sometimes I need to send up the test balloon and give it time to figure things out.

So after a little reflection, here is what I think:

1) I agree with Isaac that Chad’s Final Four game is the equivalent of sports talk radio. When I previously mentioned that I’m a fan of sports talk (even though I don’t watch sports) I wrote that “it is a joy to listen to the nerds and statisticians sink their teeth into something entirely meaningless.”

2) “Should Alec, Ulrich, and Christian Patterson really be on that list?” asks Avedont. No. But this isn’t a real tournament. It is a silly blog game. I suspect the fact that we are all bloggers had more than a little to do with our inclusion.

3) The reason I posted on LaChapelle & Greenberg was purely visual. While browsing through the current issue of Art and Auction, I saw the image of Gwen Stefani by Greenberg and the ad for LaChapelle’s show at Shafrazi. The first thing that struck me was the similar use of rear lighting and image vignetting. But as I thought about the two photographers, I became aware of other similarities. LaChapelle and Greenberg both started in the commercial arena but now exhibit regularly in galleries. Both like slick images. Both like to shock.

So what do I think of these artists? My feelings are mixed. Except for his remarkable film RIZE, a little LaChapelle goes a long way. But he has his place. That place is normally in magazines and I’m skeptical about seeing his tableaux work on the wall, but the floating figures look good. They remind me a bit of Gary Schneider’s nudes and a number of the jumping photographers: (Kerry Skarbakka, Li Wei, etc). As for Greenberg, the aura around the pictures (the lollipops, the Bush critique) is incredibly shallow. But the pictures themselves pack a punch.

4) The most valuable thing about LaChapelle, Greenberg and the Final Four is that it got me thinking about what kind of commercial photography stands the test of time. The first photographer I thought about was Philippe Halsman. Halsman produced tableaux pictures like LaChapelle:

Dali Atomicus by Philippe Halsman

His great Jumpology work also reminds me of LaChapelle’s floating figures:

Mrs. Edsel Ford by Philippe Halsman

Finally, Halsman hysterical pictures of the French actor Fernandel are reminiscent of Greenberg:


Halsman stands the test of time. His work is light and humorous but somehow always marked by greatness. Only time will tell if LaChapelle and Greenberg (or Alec, Ulrich, and Patterson) will join him in the Big Dance. Whatever the case, Halsman provides a great example of a commercial photographer who holds up.

One who doesn’t hold up, but also bears resemblance to LaChapelle and Greenberg, is Howard Schatz. Compare LaChapelle’s floating pictures and Schatz’s water dancers:


Or Greenberg’s children and Schatz’s actors:



What makes Halsman great and Schatz empty? I might need some time to figure that out.

December 1, 2006

FAQ: Why do you blog?

Filed under: on blogging — alecsothblog @ 6:23 pm
Joerg Colberg interviews me about the blog here

October 23, 2006

Perpetual Battlefields

Filed under: on blogging — alecsothblog @ 10:41 pm

Earlier today I received an email from a fellow photographer whom I’ve never met. He asked me about prices, editions, why I switched from one gallery to another, why I make some of my prints large (‘just about art economics’…he assumed) and so forth. While he didn’t ask me to look at his work, I found some examples online and it looked quite good. But in my reply I sort of lashed out at him. I probably overdid it (it has been a long day).

I guess one of the reason I enjoy this blog is because I spend most of my day being pestered with talk of money, editions, printing, mounting, shipping, storage and the rest. I want a place where I can talk about issues of substance or, well, just joke around. I understand there is a hunger amongst photographers to talk about these financial matters but I am utterly bored with the topic.

As I said, it has been a long day. My crabbiness even had me considering a prolonged break from the blogosphere. But after reading Brian Ulrich’s humorous reply to my Cat Power request, I made a visit to Brian’s blog where I discovered his story of Ron’s Perpetual Battlefields. It made my day. It made me want to write something down.

September 17, 2006


Filed under: on blogging — alecsothblog @ 7:57 pm

Like your average cover band, I gladly take requests. I’m happy to talk about just about anything (favorite f-stops, the nature of reality, lunch). I just ask for patience. Pretty soon I’m going to start being a photographer again and my blogging will slow down dramatically. But I’ll keep your requests on file for a rainy day.

September 3, 2006

why am I doing this?

Filed under: on blogging — alecsothblog @ 11:18 pm

A few weeks ago my wife gave birth to our 2nd child. Me thinks I won’t be leaving the house much for awhile. I doubt I’ll have an abundance of time to write, but I am hungry for a bit of interaction with the world (albeit virtual).

Blog at