Alec Soth (born 1969, Minneapolis, Minnesota) is an American photographer notable for "large-scale American projects" featuring the midwestern United States. His photography has a cinematic feel with elements of folklore that hint at a story behind the image. New York Times art critic Hilarie M. Sheets wrote that he has made a "photographic career out of finding chemistry with strangers" and photographs "loners and dreamers". His work tends to focus on the "off-beat, hauntingly banal images of modern America" according to The Guardian art critic Hannah Booth. His work has been compared to photographers such as Walker Evans and Stephen Shore.
Soth liked the work of Diane Arbus. He traveled around the Mississippi River and made a self-printed book entitled Sleeping by the Mississippi which included both landscapes and portraits. Curators for the 2004 Whitney Biennial put him in their show, and one of his photographs entitled "Charles", of a man in a flight suit on his roof holding two model airplanes, was used in their poster.
When he photographs people, Soth feels nervous at times. He said: "My own awkwardness comforts people, I think. It’s part of the exchange." When he was on the road, he'd have notes describing types of pictures he wanted taped to the steering wheel of his car. One list was: "beards, birdwatchers, mushroom hunters, men’s retreats, after the rain, figures from behind, suitcases, tall people (especially skinny), targets, tents, treehouses and tree lines. With people, he'll ask their permission to photograph them, and often wait for them to get comfortable; he sometimes uses an 8x10 camera. He tries to find a "narrative arc and true storytelling" and pictures in which each picture will lead to the next one.
Soth received fellowships from the McKnight and Jerome Foundations and was the recipient of the 2003 Santa Fe Prize for Photography. His photographs are in major public and private collections, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and the Walker Art Center. His work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including the 2004 Whitney Biennial.
His first book, Sleeping by the Mississippi, was published in 2004. His second book, Niagara, was published in 2006. One of his photos is of a woman in a bridal gown sitting outside what appears to be a motel; he describes having made an arrangement with a particular wedding chapel in Niagara Falls which let him take pictures of couples getting married, by photographing them after their weddings.
Soth, along with writer Lester B. Morrison, created Broken Manual over four years (2006-2010) an underground instruction manual for those looking to escape their lives. Soth investigates the places in which people retreat to escape civilization. Soth photographs monks, survivalists, hermits and runaways.
Soth concurrently produced the photo book From Here to There: Alec Soth’s America an overview of Soth’s photography from the early 1990s to the present.
In 2010, Soth flew to the United Kingdom but was denied a work visa, but was allowed into the country with the understanding that if he was "caught taking photographs" he could be put in prison for two years. So he handed the camera to his young daughter who took pictures in Brighton.
In 2004, Soth became a nominee of the Magnum Photos agency and in 2008 he became a full member. He has expressed an interest in photographing "hermits, Scarlett Johansson, happy people, the Amazon, unusually tall people, Welsh countryside." He lives with his wife and children in Minneapolis.
- Sean Kelly Gallery (New York, NY), "Broken Manual" (February 3 - March 11, 2012)
- Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow, "Alec Soth: La Belle Dame sans Merci" (March 30 - May 9, 2012)
- Galerie Friedrich Loock, Berlin Germany; "Alec Soth: Broken Moments" (June 10 - July 23, 2011)
- Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN. USA) "Alec Soth: From here to there" (September 12 – January 2, 2011)
- Triennale di Milano (Milan, Italy), "Mississippi Niagara" (February 4 - March 21, 2010)
- High Museum of art (Atlanta, GA. USA) "Alec Soth: Black line of woods" (August 8 - January 3, 2010)
- Williams College Museum of Art (Williamstown, MA) "Niagara" (October 17 - January 10, 2010)
- Gagosian Gallery (New York, NY) "The Last Days of W." (January 20 - March 28, 2009)
- Weinstein Gallery (Minneapolis, MN, USA), "Alec Soth: Niagara" (April 7 - June 10, 2006)
- Wohnmaschine (Berlin, Germany), "Alec Soth - Niagara" (March 24 - April 29, 2006)
- Gagosian Gallery (New York, New York, USA), "Alec Soth 'Niagara'" (January 21 - February 25, 2006)
- Gagosian Gallery (New York, New York, USA), "Roger Ballen, Alec Soth and Vera Lutter" (June 4 - July 29, 2005)
- Stephen Wirtz Gallery (San Francisco, CA, USA), "Alec Soth 'Sleeping by the Mississippi'" (June 2 - July 24, 2004)
- Yossi Milo Gallery (New York, New York, USA), "Alec Soth 'Sleeping by the Mississippi'" (March 12 - April 24, 2004)
- Albright-Knox Gallery of Art, Buffalo, NY
- Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
- Carleton College, Northfield, MN
- Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
- Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, Iowa
- General Mills Corporate Art Collection, Golden Valley, MN
- Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel
- Joseph M Cohen Family Collection, NY
- LA County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA
- Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Madison, WI
- Margulies Collection at the Warehouse, Miami, FL
- Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, TN
- Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN
- Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, IL
- Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
- Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
- North Dakota Museum of Art, Grand Forks, ND
- Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, LA
- Progressive Corporate Art Collection, Cleveland, OH
- Regis Corporate Art Collection, Minneapolis, MN
- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
- Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, Lincoln, NE
- Tweed Museum of Art, Duluth, MN
- Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
- Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
- Looking for Love. Kominek Bücher, 2012
- House of Coates. Little Brown Mushroom, 2012.
- La Belle Dame Sans Merci. Edizioni Punctum, 2011.
- Postcards From America. Photographs by Alec Soth, Jim Goldberg, Susan Meiselas, Paolo Pellegrin, Mikhael Subotzky, and Ginger Strand. Magnum, 2011.
- Rodarte. Photographs by Alec Soth and Catherine Opie. JRP|Ringier, 2011.
- The Auckland Project. Photographs by Alec Soth and John Gossage. Radius Books, 2011.
- One Mississippi. Nazraeli Press, 2010.
- Ash Wednesday, New Orleans. Super Labo, 2010
- From Here to There: Alec Soth’s America. Walker Art Center and Engberg, 2010.
- Brighton Picture Hunt. Photographs by Carmen Soth, edited by Alec Soth. Photoworks, 2010.
- Georgian Spring: A Magnum Journal. Alec Soth, Antoine d’Agata, Jonas Bendiksen, Thomas Dworzak, Martine Franck, Alex Majoli, Gueorgui Pinkhassov, Martin Parr, Paolo Pellegrin, and Mark *Power. Magnum, 2009.
- Last Days of W. Little Brown Mushroom, 2008.
- Sheep. TBW Books, 2008.
- Dog Days, Bogotá. Steidl: Göttingen, 2007.
- Fashion Magazine. Magnum: Paris, 2007.
- The Image To Come: How Cinema Inspires Photographers. Steidl: Göttingen, 2007.
- NIAGARA. Photographs by Alec Soth, essays by Richard Ford and Philip Brookman. Steidl: Göttingen, 2006.
- Sleeping by the Mississippi. Photographs by Alec Soth, essays by Patricia Hampl and Anne Wilkes Tucker. Steidl: Göttingen, 2004.
Fellowships and Awards
- PhotoVision Award 2008
- Bush Artist Fellowship 2008
- Golden Light Book Award 2006
- Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2006 (finalist)
- CEPA Artist Residency 2005
- McKnight Photography Fellowship, 2004
- Santa Fe Prize for Photography, 2003
- Minnesota State Arts Board, 2001
- MCAD / Jerome Fellowship, 2001
- Jerome Travel and Study Grant, 2001
- McKnight Photography Fellowship, 1999
- Hannah Booth (19 September 2010). "The genius behind Alec Soth's Brighton biennial success". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-12-28. "Photographer Alec Soth was denied permission to work in the UK earlier this year. So he handed over the reins of his latest exhibition to a new collaborator: his seven-year-old daughter..."
- HILARIE M. SHEETS (July 31, 2009). "Trolling for Strangers to Befriend". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-12-28. "ALEC SOTH has created a photographic career out of finding chemistry with strangers. On his frequent road trips through America, he’s drawn to loners and dreamers he spots from his car; sometimes he will do several pass-bys before striking up a conversation. Often that will lead to a portrait session with his large-format 8-by-10 view camera."
- Campoyleffler, Nicole (Sep 2, 2010). "Spotlight On Alec Soth At Minneapolis' Walker Art Center". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2010-12-28. "Within the wanderlust embodied in Alec Soth's photographs is an impulse to uncover narratives that comprise the American experience. ..."
- Leo Benedictus, interviewing Alec Soth (7 December 2006). "Alec Soth's best shot". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-12-28. "I had an agreement with this particular wedding chapel, attached to a motel called the Flamingo Inn, that I could approach newlyweds after their ceremonies."
- Engberg Siri,"FROM HERE TO THERE: ALEC SOTH'S AMERICA",Walker Art Center,2010. ISBN 978-0-935640-96-0
- Alec Soth's Official Website
- Alec Soth's Blog
- New Yorker Review of Niagara Exhibit
- Museum of Contemporary Photography Exhibit
- Village Voice Review
- Photographs by Alec Soth
- Citypages Feature Article about Alec Soth
- Alec Soth on re-title.com
- Alec Soth on Nofound
- Illustrated Bibliography: Alec Soth