The Image Source creative team and I went to the The Media Space’s talk by Alec Soth at The Science Museum last night, to get insights into his working practices, influences and the push and pull of Documentary, Art and Commerce in his imagery.
The talk launched his retrospective called Gathered Leaves, which curates chronologically his four major books: Sleeping By the Mississippi (2004), Niagara (2006), Broken Manual (2010) and Songbook (2015).
Taught for a time by Joel Sternfeld, you can see his influence on some of Soth’s work. He also referenced William Egglestone and Robert Frank as photographers he admired – but saved his highest praise for Paul Graham.
Alec Soth calls himself “a photojournalist, blogger, self-publisher, Instagrammer and Educator” and last night he drew parallels between the avalanche of photographs taken today and the volume of music available on iTunes. He understands that today the sharing of the image can be as powerful as the image itself.
He also runs a publishing company called Little Brown Mushroom and self-finances ‘Zines and books as well as seeking funding through the likes of Kickstarter for publications and educational programmes. Interestingly, all the publications on the site are Sold Out!
His imagery is impactful but subtle. With soft colours, poignancy and considered compositions, you can see echoes of the photographers mentioned above but also a very particular vision where the images in his bodies of work connect with each other as much as you the viewer want them to. His influence in turn can be seen in advertising, on social media and in fashion editorials, where contemporary but nostalgic photography is the visual currency. There’s a timelessness though to Soth’s pictures, making him one of the great photographers working today.