Alec Soth

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Alec Soth
Alec Soth Headshot.jpeg
Alec Soth in his studio.
Born 1969 (age 44–45)
Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States
Nationality American
Occupation Photography

Alec Soth (born 1969, Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States) is an American photographer, notable for "large-scale American projects" featuring the midwestern United States.[1] 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".[2] His work tends to focus on the "off-beat, hauntingly banal images of modern America" according to The Guardian art critic Hannah Booth.[1] His work has been compared to photographers such as Walker Evans and Stephen Shore.[1] Soth is a member of Magnum photo agency.

Early life[edit]

Soth studied at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York.[2] He was reported to be "painfully shy" in his youth.[2]


Soth liked the work of Diane Arbus.[2] He traveled around the Mississippi River and made a self-printed book entitled Sleeping by the Mississippi which included both landscapes and portraits.[2] 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.[2]

When he photographs people, Soth feels nervous at times. He said: "My own awkwardness comforts people, I think. It’s part of the exchange."[2] When he was on the road, he'd have notes describing types of pictures he wanted taped to the steering wheel of his car.[2] 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.[2] 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.[2]

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.[3] 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.[2] 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.[4]

Soth made several more photographic books including Last Days of W, a book about a country "exhausted by George W. Bush's presidency".[2]

Soth has photographed for The New York Times Magazine, Fortune and Newsweek.

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, he 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.

Soth founded the publishing house, Little Brown Mushroom (LBM), in 2010. Through it, he publishes his own, and that of other like-minded people, "narrative photography books that function in a similar way to children's books," in book, magazine and newspaper formats.[5] He has collaborated on numerous books with Brad Zellar, a Minnesota writer from the Twin Cities.

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.[1] So he handed the camera to his young daughter who took pictures in Brighton.[1]

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."[4] Soth is represented by Weinstein Gallery and Sean Kelly Gallery. He lives with his wife and children in Minneapolis.[2]


Major publications[edit]

Other publications[edit]

  • The Image To Come: How Cinema Inspires Photographers. Göttingen: Steidl, 2007.
  • Fashion Magazine. Paris: Magnum, 2007. ISBN 978-2-9524102-1-2.
  • Dog Days, Bogotá. Göttingen: Steidl, 2007.
  • Sheep. Oakland: TBW Books, 2008.
  • Last Days of W. St. Paul, Minnesota: Little Brown Mushroom, 2008.
  • Dog Days Bogota. Göttingen: Steidl, 2008. ISBN 978-3-865214-51-5
  • Georgian Spring: A Magnum Journal = ქართულიგაზაფხული მაგნუმი ს დღიურები. London: Chris Boot, New York: Magnum, 2009. ISBN 978-1905712151. Introduction by Wendell Steavenson, photographs by Soth, Antoine D'Agata, Jonas Bendiksen, Thomas Dworzak, Martine Franck, Alex Majoli, Gueorgui Pinkhassov, Martin Parr, Paolo Pellegrin, and Mark Power.
  • Brighton Picture Hunt. Photographs by Carmen Soth, edited by Alec Soth. Brighton: Photoworks, 2010.
  • From Here to There: Alec Soth’s America. Minneapolis, MN: Walker Art Center, 2010. ISBN 978-0-935640-96-0. Catalogue of a retrospective exhibition curated by Siri Engberg. Foreword by Olga Viso; texts by Geoff Dyer, "Riverrun"; Britt Salvesen, "American History"; Barry Schwabsky, "A Wandering Art"; a poem by August Kleinzahler, "Sleeping it off in Rapid City"; and Soth in conversation with Bartholomew Ryan, "Dismantling My Career". Includes separate book The Loneliest Man in Missouri by Soth, inserted into back cover.
  • Ash Wednesday, New Orleans. Kamakura, Japan: Super Labo, 2010.
  • One Mississippi. Nazraeli Press, 2010.
  • The Auckland Project. Photographs by Soth and John Gossage. Radius Books, 2011.
  • Rodarte. Photographs by Soth and Catherine Opie. JRP|Ringier, 2011.
  • Postcards From America. Photographs by Soth, Jim Goldberg, Susan Meiselas, Paolo Pellegrin, Mikhael Subotzky, and Ginger Strand. Magnum, 2011.
  • La Belle Dame Sans Merci. Edizioni Punctum, 2011.
  • House of Coates. St. Paul, Minnesota: Little Brown Mushroom, 2012.
  • Looking for Love. Kominek Bücher, 2012.
  • Ping Pong Conversations: Alec Soth with Francesco Zanot. Rome: Contrasto, 2013. ISBN 978-8869654091. Transcripts compiled from conversations between Soth and Zanot, with new and previously published photographs by Soth. Zanot contributes an introduction, "Alec Soth: the Recycling of Photography".

Gallery exhibitions[edit]

  • Yossi Milo Gallery (New York, New York, USA), "Alec Soth 'Sleeping by the Mississippi'" (2004)[6]
  • Stephen Wirtz Gallery (San Francisco, CA, USA), "Alec Soth 'Sleeping by the Mississippi'" (2004)[7]
  • Gagosian Gallery (New York, New York, USA), "Roger Ballen, Alec Soth and Vera Lutter" (2005)[8]
  • Gagosian Gallery (New York, New York, USA), "Alec Soth 'Niagara'" (2006)[9]
  • Wohnmaschine (Berlin, Germany), "Alec Soth - Niagara" (2006)[10]
  • Weinstein Gallery (Minneapolis, MN, USA), "Alec Soth: Niagara" (2006)[11]
  • Gagosian Gallery (New York, NY) "The Last Days of W." (2009)[12]
  • Williams College Museum of Art (Williamstown, MA) "Niagara" (2009/2010)[13]
  • High Museum of art (Atlanta, GA. USA) "Alec Soth: Black line of woods" (2010/2011)[14]
  • Triennale di Milano (Milan, Italy), "Mississippi Niagara" (2010)[15]
  • Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN. USA) "Alec Soth: From here to there" (2010/2011)[16]
  • Galerie Friedrich Loock, Berlin Germany; "Alec Soth: Broken Moments" (2011)[17]
  • Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow, "Alec Soth: La Belle Dame sans Merci" (2012)[18]
  • Sean Kelly Gallery (New York, NY), "Broken Manual" (2012)[19]


  • 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

Fellowships and awards[edit]

  • McKnight Photography Fellowship, 1999
  • Jerome Travel and Study Grant, 2001
  • MCAD / Jerome Fellowship, 2001
  • Minnesota State Arts Board, 2001
  • Santa Fe Prize for Photography, 2003
  • McKnight Photography Fellowship, 2004
  • CEPA Artist Residency 2005
  • Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2006 (finalist)
  • Golden Light Book Award 2006
  • Bush Artist Fellowship 2008
  • PhotoVision Award 2008
  • International Center for Photography's Infinity Award, Publication category, 2011, for From Here to There: Alec Soth’s America.[20]


  1. ^ a b c d e 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... 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m 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. 
  3. ^ 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. ... 
  4. ^ a b 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. 
  5. ^ O'Hagan, Sean (14 April 2013). "How photographers joined the self-publishing revolution". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  6. ^ "Exhibitions - Alec Soth". Yossi Milo Gallery. 2004-04-24. Retrieved 2013-10-20. 
  7. ^ "Stephen Wirtz Gallery". Retrieved 2013-10-20. 
  8. ^ [1][dead link]
  9. ^ [2][dead link]
  10. ^ [3][dead link]
  11. ^ [4][dead link]
  12. ^ "Alec Soth - January 20 - March 28, 2009 - Gagosian Gallery". Retrieved 2013-10-20. 
  13. ^ "Alec Soth: NIAGARA " Williams College Museum of Art". Retrieved 2013-10-20. 
  14. ^ [5][dead link]
  15. ^ "Triennale di Milano - Alec Soth - Mississippi Niagara". 2010-03-21. Retrieved 2013-10-20. 
  16. ^ "Walker Art Center". Retrieved 2013-10-20. 
  17. ^ "Künstler : Ivan Grubanov : Ausstellungen : 2013 : Dead Flags – LOOCK Galerie". Retrieved 2013-10-20. 
  18. ^ Alec Soth. "Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow | Exhibitions | Alec Soth - La Belle Dame sans Merci". Retrieved 2013-10-20. 
  19. ^ "Sean Kelly Gallery - Alec Soth - Installation Views". 2012-03-11. Retrieved 2013-10-20. 
  20. ^ "Infinity Awards 2011". International Center for Photography. Retrieved 16 March 2014. Publication: Alec Soth 

External links[edit]