Gathered Leaves • Alec Soth at MediaSpace

A retrospective, with images from four of Soth’s works, Sleeping by the Mississippi (2004), Niagara (2006), Broken Manual (2010) and Songbook (2014) shown in four gallery spaces.

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Part of the Niagara gallery space

Sleeping by the Mississippi

A trip down the Mississippi with a large-format camera; the images are printed 50x40cm, grainless and very sharp. Soth introduces us to some of the people and scenes he encountered on the way. I particularly enjoyed Charles, Vasa, Minnesota (2002) with his nerd glasses, balaclava, boiler suit and two model aircraft. This is bible-belt territory and several subjects were portrayed with religious icons, including Bonnie with Photograph of an Angel (actually an unusual cloud formation).

Non-people scenes included a fair amount of detritus. Hotel, Dalton City, Illinois (2002) is simply an old door propped against a wall.

Niagara

A series taken in and around Niagara Falls (the town and the waterfall). The introductory note tells us that the area is the site of spectacular suicides and affordable honeymoons, and long associated with love. The dominant image is of the head of the falls; most of the others are deadpan portraits with a theme of fragile love. His subjects were found in bars and wedding venues and juxtaposed with pictures of spectacular scenery and tawdry motels. The gallery image photograph above shows a large bride and a naked couple on the sofa, looking vulnerable rather than erotic.

The Cadillac Motel image would fit nicely into Exercise 1.3(2), using perpendicular lines to flatten the picture space. The Flechs is a family group with parents, five identically dressed daughters and a son.

Broken Manual

A series about runaways, hermits, hideouts and empty space.

Songbook

A project about reconnecting with people, Soth and writer Brad Zellar made a series of road trips, acting as if they were reporters from a local paper, shooting and writing about human interest stories. Mostly these are happy pictures, which makes Execution, Huntsville Prison, Texas particularly disturbing. This is not the execution itself but a flashlit shot of a queue of redneck types, mostly in uniform, presumably waiting to enter.