September 17, 2007
September 7, 2007
I’m leaving for Germany and doubt I’ll be able to post much over the next week. While I’m gone, I want to share with you something that is very close to my heart.
While my mother-in-law, Linda Francis Cartee, was battling cancer, she participated with an organization called Pathways. Pathways is a non-profit organization that provides programs designed to support a creative healing response for people with life-threatening illness. Linda’s experience with Pathways changed her and everyone she touched. My book, Sleeping by the Mississippi, was dedicated to Linda and could never have been made without her inspiration.
Last year I donated over 25 prints to charitable auctions. This year I’ve pooled all of my prints for the Linda Francis Cartee Memorial Fund at Pathways.
For more information, go here.
And if you live in Minnesota, you’ll want to go to this event.
August 7, 2007
Martin Parr might have 1300 members in his Flickr group, but I’ll always have mom:
July 19, 2007
March 25, 2007
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.
March 7, 2007
Milton Rogovin was just named the 2007 recipient of the ICP Cornell Capa Award. Nobody is more worthy of acknowledgement. Rogovin has dedicated his life to photographing ‘the forgotten ones.’ His portraits are consistently made out of affection and empathy.
One of Rogovin’s greatest achievements has been documenting the lives of his Buffalo neighbors. He often re-photographed the same subjects multiple times over the decades. In 2002, Sound Portraits producers Dave Isay and David Miller joined Rogovin to interview these subjects. The results were remarkable. Here is one example of Monica “Kiki” Cruz:
I was three in this first picture. I remember my mom was so excited–she felt like a movie star because Milton was coming over. She hurried to get me dressed, bathed–everything! She didn’t even have time to do her own hair, so she threw on that floppy old hat. Even after Milton left, she was happy that whole afternoon. And her being happy made me happy. Every time Milton came, my mother was happy, because she loved Anne and Milton. She’s not here no longer [crying]…but she was a wonderful lady and she is greatly missed. Me and my mom went through trials and tribulations, but she was my best friend.
That second picture was at my grandmother’s house. I wasn’t living at home at the time, and I just went over to visit. And my mother said, “You came in just in time, because Milton’s taking another picture of us!” And I said, “For real?” And when he took that picture I was sitting there thinking, “I don’t believe I’m doing this again!” Because that was the worst time in my life. My mother got with somebody that beat her, and I couldn’t take it. So I started sleeping in LaSalle Park, on the benches. Then when I was fifteen I went through the court system and became an emancipated minor, so I was able to live by myself as an adult. And at the time of the picture I was running with an older crowd–much older–and got addicted to drugs. I mean badly. Cocaine. Until one day I just woke up and said, “No. This isn’t me.” And I never touched it again.
In the third picture–I was happy there. I was working at my mom’s bar, the Golden Palm. Me and my mom had a real good relationship then. As a matter of fact we were living together, right across the street from there, and she was so happy that day. My mom used to live for the days that Milton and Anne would take her picture, but a little while after that, things got bad again. My mom actually drank herself to death. Because she felt alone [crying]. She felt like she didn’t have nobody, nobody loved her, nobody needed her. So she just gave up. And she died on July 10, 1998, from cirrhosis of the liver.
February 11, 2007
December 11, 2006
In the discussion regarding my recent post on the sentence used to describe an artist, Zoe asked: “Alec, do you have a sentence in mind for yourself?” I don’t. I just have a laundry list of things I don’t want it to be. I’m reminded of a picture I took a long time ago:
This picture won a blue ribbon at the Minnesota State Fair Art Show! It was published in a book. I sold prints. I became worried. The picture is a one-liner. I don’t want to be a one-liner photographer. I don’t want to be ‘that guy that took the picture of the cop and the clown.’
There are a lot of things I don’t want my sentence to be. Unfortunately I don’t have the clarity, or maturity, to say what I do want it to be.
December 5, 2006
Tonight I had dinner at an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet in rural Kentucky. While gnawing on heat-lamp aged shrimp wontons, I couldn’t stop thinking about a radio program I’d heard earlier today. Apparently the one thing that unifies Sunni and Shiite Muslims (besides Allah) is Lionel Richie. (Listen to the program here or watch a Nightline episode on the topic here).
As I reflected on this remarkable example of truth being stranger than fiction, I noticed a display at the front counter of the restaurant:
My eyes have probably scanned a scene like this a thousand times. But I doubt I ever noticed it until I became aware of Martin Parr. Parr opened my eyes. He made me see the world around me in a new way. For this reason alone I think he is an important photographer.
Martin Parr, London, 2004, ©Alec Soth
But plenty of people dispute Parr’s importance. In a recent Magnum in Motion slideshow, Parr says, “I always find it very strange that people think it is controversial to go into a supermarket and take a photograph of someone – while there is no controversy associated with the idea of going into a very volatile situation in the Middle East and photographing victims.”
It is peculiar how much heat Parr generates. I’m reminded of the story about Henri Cartier-Bresson visiting one of Parr’s exhibitions and chastising his work as being “without humor, where rancor and scorn dominate, a nihilistic attitude symptomatic of society today.”
In an interview archived on YouTube, Charlie Rose asked Cartier-Bresson if he worries about globalization. “The present society is crumbling to pieces,” says HCB. Isn’t Parr’s achievement the documentation of this crumbling? Of course we need photographers showing us, say, the war in Iraq. But don’t we also need someone to show us the unifying power of Lionel Richie?