April 26th, 2013

Alec Soth on Wandering, Storytelling and Robert Adams vs. Weegee

Last week at the Portland Art Museum as part of the 2013 Photolucida festivities, Alec Soth gave a lecture titled “From Here to There: Searching for Narrative in Photography.” The talk could have been titled “Searching for Narrative in Photography Lectures,” because Soth mostly allowed the audience to lead the way with questions, which he responded to with the aid of a number of prepared slideshows. The evening was free-form, entertaining and a bit wandering, which made sense given that Soth emphasized that wandering and taking pictures without a set goal in mind has produced some of his most important bodies of work. But more on that later.

Soth started on a down note, sharing a quote from Robert Frank—“There are too many images, too many cameras now. We’re all being watched. It gets sillier and sillier. As if all action is meaningful. Nothing is really all that special. It’s just life. If all moments are recorded, then nothing is beautiful and maybe photography isn’t an art any more. Maybe it never was.” He also showed a photograph of an installation by Erik Kessels: a pile of prints made from all of the images uploaded to Flickr in a 24-hour period.

Soth described the perspectives offered by the Frank quote and Kessels’ installation as “bleak.” But, he said, the “way out of this [bleak situation for photographers] is storytelling.” (more…)

January 11th, 2012

On Marrying a Photographer: Alec Soth, Martin Parr, Zoe Strauss, Spouses Weigh In

On Alec Soth’s blog, Little Brown Mushroom, the Magnum photographer has responded to a reader whose partner is a photographer, and wants advice about planning a future life together, “marriage and babies included.” His post has inspired loads of comments (51 so far) from photographers and people married to photographers.

Martin Parr, who has been married for 35 years to a woman “who is bored with being Mrs. Martin Parr,” cites the challenge of constant travel. Zoe Strauss says if it weren’t for the support of her wife, “I doubt I’d be a photographer.”  Rachel Cartee Soth, wife of Alec Soth, notes that when you live with an artist, things can be fantastic when “the creative juju is flowing,” and not so great when the juju is blocked.  She also warns, “It’s easy to lose yourself, especially when your partner is successful.” Photographers Rebecca Norris Webb and Alex Webb are thoughtful and candid about the problems and rewards of life in a two-photographer household.

Having met lots of photographers struggling with the demands of family and a freelance career, I was touched by photographer Paul Shambroom’s comment about what sacrifices have to be made when both partners are “accomplished and busy”: “Many of us (some posting here) could probably also be wealthier, but we made career adjustments in order to have functional marriages and try to be good parents.”

Take a look: littlebrownmushroom.wordpress.com.