Alec Soth: Sleeping by The Mississippi


A brand new MACK edition of Sleeping by The Mississippi launched Alec Soth’s first exhibition in London dedicated to the series at the Beetles+Huxley gallery in Piccadilly last week. The new edition of the book includes two new photographs that were not included in the previous versions. I went along to see the images – and the photographer, up close and in the flesh.

Soth took a series of road trips along The Mississippi River, shooting landscapes, interiors and folk he met along the way, building up a kind of loose narrative, like pieces of a jigsaw that the viewer can put together. He is a great ‘book’ photographer in this respect, I think, as the whole story can reveal itself when the images are looked at as a unified whole; as you do in a book.

Soth himself has said “Anyone can take a great picture. But very few people can put together a great collection of pictures. It is incredibly difficult to put these fragments together in a meaningful way. And this is my goal”.

So like a jigsaw, all the pieces are essential in playing their part to give the complete overview – or as complete an overview as possible. Because, like Robert Frank before him with his pioneering book The Americans, you can get meaningful insights into America and its people here – but it’s not prescriptive in its message.

There’s a sadness that permeates this whole documentary series – of lives unfulfilled, of disappointment and of resignedness. But this is where, through Soth’s eyes, documentary meets poetry; and the result is a trip along a river that acts as a metaphor for life, encompassing childhood, hopes, dreams, art, religion, politics, sex and ultimately of course, death.


About Author

Ashley Jouhar is the Creative Director of Image Source. He has worked as a senior creative in the photography industry for over 12 years, previously as Deputy Director of Photography at Getty Images. He is also a photographer in his own right, shooting lifestyle, documentary and portraiture for a wide range of clients. Before turning to photography full time, Ashley worked as a senior Art Director and Group Head at McCann Erickson, London, creating award winning advertising for Bacardi, Shredded Wheat, Black & Decker, Medecins Sans Frontieres and Birds Eye, amongst others.

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