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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

In/Visible Is Up: Alec Soth at the Sorrento Hotel

posted by on October 8 at 16:24 PM

Gus’s Pawn Shop from the series NIAGARA by Alec Soth

Alec Soth is a particular sort of wandering American storyteller, a lyrical documentarian. When people talk about his photographs, they bring up names like Robert Frank, like Flannery O’Connor, like Mark Twain, even.

Recently Soth was in Seattle, receiving an award from the Photographic Center Northwest and staying at the Sorrento Hotel on First Hill. I met him just after he arrived, and he was already a little out of sorts. He had lost his wallet. Then he found it, I don’t know how, he left me in the lobby during that part, and when he came back we ordered Diet Cokes and went upstairs to sit down and talk. He didn’t have a camera with him, or was it that he didn’t really feel like shooting? He was crotchety and smart and evasive and funny and open all at the same time. Something about him was resistant to the interview process (in a good way), even though he talked plenty. I think you’ll see what I mean. You’ll also hear him reveal what he’s working on, which involves hiding out. It also involves making art about the election process while trying like hell not to be political.

Click here to listen.

Also, he wholeheartedly agrees with Ed Schad’s take on my take on nostalgia and sentimentality when it comes to art. (Me, too. Not my take, I mean, but Ed’s take on my take.)

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That pawn shop snap is pretty good, Graves. It reminds me of Hirst's medicine cabinets...a little Martin Parr...and the way the ring box floats on air is lovely and cool.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | October 8, 2008 4:35 PM

Mr. Chad's comment,

"...sentimentality is not the enemy, detachment is the enemy."

I agree. In sentimentality, there is life. In detachment, death. Or, might as well be.

Posted by homage to me | October 8, 2008 8:27 PM

I love Alec Soth. And not just because I used to live in the same Minneapolis neighborhood as him, or because one of his books I bought became amazingly valuable. Normally, I hate dreary outdoor photography, but his always manages to be amazingly captivating. I don't want to get carried away with praise, so I'll just pirate a bit of an Amazon review: "Alec Soth builds on the tradition established by William Eggleston, Stephen Shore and Joel Sternfeld. But Soth dramatically moves beyond these masters by presenting a more eccentric cast of characters, a stronger thematic melody and a more personal insight."

Oh, and Amazon tells me he was involved in the Norling archive book. Awesome.

Posted by Q*bert H. Humphrey | October 9, 2008 6:51 AM

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