2˚ Fórum Latino-americano de Fotografia de São Paulo
Martin Parr Entrevista Alec Soth
Luis Wenstein: Tenemos una gran entrevista ahora, donde Martin
Parr es el entrevistador. Este fotógrafo ingles es un cronista de
nuestro tiempo, afirma el curador alemán Thomas Weski. Para él, las
imágenes de Parr brindan la oportunidad de ver el mundo desde una
perspectiva única en el torbellino de registros divulgados por los
comunicación son elementos básicos de su imagetica, por el medio
de la cual se posiciona incluso políticamente. Nascido en Epson, una
pequeña ciudad del Condado de Surrey, aprendió a fotografiar en
infancia con su abuelo. Estudió fotografía en el Manchester
Politechnics que forma parte del Manchester Metropolitan University,
una de las cuatro universidades más grandes de Inglaterra. Es un
coleccionista compulsivo de libros de fotografía, a los que busca por
todo el mundo. Autor de importantes libros como Bored Couples en
el año 1993 y Think of England en el año 2000, ambos una crítica
contundente al way of life.
O entrevistado é Alec Soth. Em sua obra percebemos ecos de
Walker Evans, Stephen Shore e Thomas Struth, como aponta o
crítico Vince Aletti da revista New Yorker. Em
entrevista, Soth
declarou que sentia que estávamos chegando ao fim de uma era
inacreditável e que ele queria registrar esse momento. Muitos dos
seus trabalhos e livros surgem de ideias que não são concebidas
como longos projetos e outras derivadas de seus assignments. Dos
portraits às paisagens, a obra desse americano nascido na pequena
e fria Minneapolis, no norte dos Estados Unidos, navegam entre
diferentes linguagens que nunca se acomodam e quase nunca se
repetem, fruto de um instigante desejo de migrar. Segundo suas
palavras, “se a fotografia documenta alguma coisa, é o espaço que
está entre mim e o meu assunto”. Alec Soth é associado é um
membro pleno da Magnum Photos desde 2006.
Martin Parr: Alec is a very unusual photographer because he
documents with photography but his photography is also very hot.
Not often people associate the idea of hot documentary photography,
you think about hot spots, you think about hot novelists maybe, but
very rarely documentary photographer. Documentary photography is
not normally associated with people who are excited and new, I'd say
that on the last decade Alex personal contribution to documentary it
has been very exciting, he has somehow reinvigorated this mode,
which we all love. I became aware of Alex's work in the year 2004
because I was curating our festival in that year and part of my task as
a curator is always try to present and bring new interesting and
exciting people.
What is going to happen today is that he's going to show us his
presentation about his work. I'll talk to him and then we'll open up to
the floor, so I first introduced Alec who's going to gives a summary of
his last year's career.
Alec Soth: When I was going to start with this photography I was
doing quite a lot of writing and so far trying to explain what I wanted
to do. Actually I just wanted to wonder around and at one point I
stumble upon this quote by Robert Frank from his proposal of the
Guggenheim saying “The project I have in mind is one that will shape
itself as it proceeds, essentially elastic”. This for me was an excuse to
think about that one thing can lead to the next and I started a project
called From here to there, that means that one picture leads to the
So we have the boy with the chicken, we have another boy with an
egg, here is a superman tattoo on its arm...
This photograph was made at they said the smallest church in the
world. This is Iowa, United States and then I went to another world's
smallest church on the southern coast of Iceland. This project
eventually led me to this picture that is of Charles Lindbergh’s
boyhood bed, near where I live in Minnesota. For me this is a very
romantic image: this great pilot as a boy in bed overlooking the
Mississippi river, it's all about dreams and possibilities and all that.
I decided to transform the project From here to there into a project
along the Mississippi river but in fact it's the same work since one
picture is still leading to another picture.
This photograph from that series taken on the Mississippi is very
much linked to the picture of Charles Lindbergh’s boyhood bed with
the airplanes, but I was liberated from having to make this links
obvious to the viewer.
So in the work exist two levels: one level pretends to be about the
Mississippi river and another level it's about this linking and
wondering. I'm just quickly going to show you some of the pictures.
The Mississippi river cuts through the middle of America from north to
south. I moved to Minnesota in the northern part of Mississippi river
where it's quite cold and as I was travelling in the spring time as you
go south things begin to blossom.
There are very few pictures of the river itself because again it was not
a documentary project about the river, it was not showing tank boats
and that sort of thing, I was just following my curiosity. In this case
there was this sort of brothel in Iowa and anytime I saw something
that caught my eye I just followed and go in. This is the Angola State
Prison which is in Louisiana, the biggest maximum security prison in
USA. It's surrounded by the Mississippi river on three sides and it's a
former slave plantation. It really was an incredible place to visit for me
as a photographer.
This was on Easter Sunday and I was able to stand in front of a
crowd a hundred time bigger than this audience so I just looked and
thought “Ok, what about that one?”
Then I approached them to
photograph and this is for me the great privilege of photography: you
can follow your curiosity and into a prison you can meet whom you
want to meet.
This is Johnny Cash's boyhood home. The work had a lot to do with
this sort of boyish dreams and possibilities… Mark Twain wrote
Huckleberry Finn and this is the sort of the great American myth of
the boy wondering, but also the boy wondering for freedom and the
slave working for a different kind of freedom.
When I done this work I was living in Minnesota and I was not a
professional photographer at all. I was working in an art museum and
I had the vision of a book of photographs but I was saying to myself:
“How I am going to get a book published, I'm not a famous
photographer, certainly not hot,
I didn't made any
Then came this new technology of inkjet so I ended up making 25 or
so copies of this things and suddenly boom! It kind of exploded and
got out the world and now there are three editions of Sleeping by the
Mississippi published by Steidl.
A second book called Niagara followed Sleeping by the Mississippi. I
was using water features like Niagara falls, like Mississippi river
which contains a lot of metaphors, so in the case of Mississippi it's
freedom and wondering and in the case of Niagara it's love and its
nature of place for honeymoons. Love, romance and the feeling of a
faded place, a place where our grandparents would go to get married.
So it was a way to explore themes of love and also the danger of
love. At a certain point I wasn't hearing the voices of people so I
came upon this idea of collecting love letters as part of the project. So
I sketched throughout the book the love letters, starting very sweet
and innocent and getting more and more sinister as it goes along.
Niagara falls are between Canada and United States and this was a
part of project as well because the American economy was
devastated whereas the Canadian economy was doing well.
This is at a pond shop on the American side where people sell their
weeding rings so in this way I made it more gambling and heavier. I
wanted more energy also when I was photographing couples, I
wanted more sparks in the air and I wanted to feel also the closeness
and the tension between couples so I started doing nude portraits of
couples to see how they would react to each other.
This is Joy’s divorce party night. I am repeating motifs throughout the
project like the hearts.
Another theme in this project was about penises because Niagara
falls is where the name Viagra comes from. It's this force, why this
forceful body of water is a place where people go to celebrate love
but it’s also a dangerous body of water where people go and commit
suicide. I was thinking about this wildest metaphor, this surging water
so… it's a penis project. So that was the book.
I wanted to show you my most recent project called Broken Manual. It
is a complicated thing to show on the screen and this is the first time
I've ever projected it. The work is the book itself, it’s a guidebook
about how to run away from your life, how to leave your family and go
hide out in the woods. The book itself comes inside another cut out
book, so you can hide it from your family. There's an exhibition right
now which includes this work including over three hundred copies of
the book, all in these different containers shelves, and on the wall
there is some of the researching material I used to make this work.
So over the course of four years I travelled around America
photographing these men who attempted to run away. It's called
Broken Manual because it doesn't work, it's not a functional manual
and in fact people almost never truly run away, they're always
connected to society in a way or another.
I'll just quickly show some pictures, it's very abstract and that's why
it's so hard to project. It's both colour and B&W. I would often
photograph people from very far away and then blow up the detail of
This was a monk who called himself the “nocturnal hermit”: he was up
all night living in a monastery in Kentucky.
This is in Alaska and it's hard to explain these pictures but they're
part of the guidebook, they are used as illustrations for the running
away process. Some of these pictures have footnotes.
This is the location where lives the group called The Branch
Davidians, which is a separatists group. People like the Unabomber
and the Branch Davidians are references throughout the work, people
who had tried to separate themselves from society. This is a funny
example because it’s a person who is a true survivor: he stockpile
goods, he has a bunker but pretty much everyday he's on the internet
and on my blog chatting with me so he's very much connected to the
society. He has got this fantasy about running away.
This is just an exhibition of that work of From Here to There, which
has references of society and you see it says “plus bonus artist book
The loneliest man in Missouri”. I've been doing these little tiny
projects and this one is when I travelled in the State of Missouri
looking for the looniest man here. There's a whole story about how I
found him but this was preceded by another one in the Republic of
Georgia called The most beautiful woman in Georgia, that's her but I
don't have time to tell the story. Then I've been doing little stories
online as well as sort of interactive media slide shows. In the New
York Times I have a regular column telling my little travels around
And then lastly I started this little company called Little Brown
Mushroom, it's my place to experiment with storytelling and I've been
making little storybooks. It has now become a model after a kind of
American children's book called Little Golden Books. We recently
published this book Bedknobs and broomsticks by the photographer
Trent Parke which is like a children story book.
Martin Parr: Thank you Alec. I just wanted to go back to one phrase
you said at the beginning that was “boom! we got out into the world”.
Could you give a little mean to that idea? There's a lot of
photographers who would like to go “boom out into this world” in this
room. How did you do that? How did you achieved it?
Alec Soth: First of all, I've done a lot of work previously and I never
though I was good, I mean I never though I was great but I thought
that Sleeping by the Mississippi was something really good so I
though: “Now I'm gonna make the push”. I asked someone to
introduce me to a gallery and he did that. It was very nice and then
great things happened simultaneously. Someone anonymously
nominated me for the Santa Fe Prize of Photography and I won that,
but I didn't know anything about portfolio reviews or any of that. As a
part of winning I got to give portfolio reviews and this was very
helpful. Then lastly I got into the Whitney Biennial via a curator who
recommended me so all this happened at once. The peculiar part of
that was that I was sort of working at this museum... all this happens,
getting all these phone calls, but I never really believed I could make
a living doing this thing.
Martin Parr: What was you job by the way? The daily job?
Alec Soth: The day job was at the museum digitalizing the collection.
Photographing art objects and inserting into the collection was a
pretty good job but then I started to think: “What I am going to do? I
could be a teacher but I don't have the right degree so I though: Why
not became a working photographer? So I started doing assignments
and then eventually I applied for Magnum, and I did lots of works.
Martin Parr: Of course we know that Sleeping by the Mississippi was
published by Gerhard Steidl. How did he get to see this copy? I guess
he has got to see one of these computer books you've made...
Alec Soth: Initially at that portfolio review event I got an offer from
two different publishers so I got to use that in a way to go to the
dream publisher and say: ”look at these people, they are interested“
but in the end it was an introduction. I have this theory that you never
ask anyone for anything because everyone automatically wants to
say no, so someone has to kind of recommend you for something.
Martin Parr: I do think that the fact that you've made this computer
book it's a very good example of how that can work. It doesn't seem
to be this tradition yet in Brazil of making books like with Blurb and
using this as a way of experimenting with how the book can function.
I guess that by doing we are able to work out the sequence. How
different was the sequence Gerhard Steidl eventually published to the
one you've made in the first dummy?
Alec Soth: It was slightly different but the beauty of working with
Gerhard is that I had the completely freedom to do what I wanted. But
it was always conceived as a book. Yesterday I taught a workshop on
making the photographic book and the largest part of the
conversation was on if you're going that direction of a truly author
book you have to think about the book as a whole beginning-middleend while you shooting and then build this thing rather than just
having a box of pictures and say “Ok, I'll make this”.
Martin Parr: This is why the narrative is so important for you?
Alec Soth: It is. I mean there is always the struggle for me too
because photography struggles with the narrative for me. I mean,
within Magnum photos Dennis Stock said this thing which really
haunts me which is: “We're on this business of making iconic
images”. You know your one great picture, for me I guess is the
picture of the guy with the airplanes which is fine, but for me it is more
about the connection between all these things and the narrative in
between them.
Martin Parr: I have to ask you about Magnum because in a sense if I
was one to predict who is the kind of photographer who wants to join
Magnum, your name wouldn't be actually near that shortlist. Why did
you join Magnum? Why did you try to join Magnum?
Alec Soth: I was thinking about my career and how I could sustain
myself as a photographer. At the time I had this idea which I don't
actually think it's accurate anymore: that working photographers had
the longest career and then they stay fresh but I don't actually think
that's true. I think the way to stay fresh it's variety, it's not settling into
the one thing. In fact now that's how I use Magnum. I do a job, I do a
commission, then I do other things, I come here for this, I teach a
workshop… I piece it together and try to keep it fresh, that was the
reason. I mean that was the big part of it and then what I learned out
of Magnum is that it is this international network and this actually
really relates to this whole conference. It’s also about growing up as a
photographer: before the internet all the books I looked at were by
American photographers, I was in mind with that tradition and I didn't
know about much outside of it and then through Magnum and other
things I sort of woke up to the larger world. I keep waking up to it and
so many different traditions, so many ways of working, it's really... it
has really been exciting and Magnum is a part of that because of this
international collective.
Martin Parr: How different was your expectation joining Magnum to
the actual reality?
Alec Soth: How much do you want me to get into it?
I was not one of those people running around with a Leica fantasying
about being a Magnum photographer when I was young, I didn't had
all these visions in my head. What I love it’s the range of
photographers, I love associating with people who are hard core
photographers, as well as people who work on more conceptual side
or whatever.
Martin Parr: Of course one of the things I guess Magnum has offered
you and you've taken on, it's to be commissioned to do bodies of
work, let's say cultural commissions. How difficult is it for you to
actually go to say, Georgia or somewhere else and actually take on a
commission invited to do a work in another country you do not know?
Alec Soth: That was a big attraction to Magnum. In the beginning I
was exploring the world, butI've come to learn that I'm better in
America. To do that kind of wondering work of one thing that leads to
the next, it requires a certain amount of time and being present, so
with the right commission like in Georgia. I was really able to focus
myself and do something, I wanted to document this place because I
really don't understand that, so it's not Mississippi river or the
Republic of Georgia, this is just my little take on it.
Martin Parr: Because in a sense, I mean we know that you're
represented by your goals and you're selling your prints into the art
market, and yet you're documentary photographer, how... which is
more important to you to make art, or to actually document the world
that you're part of?
Alec Soth: I hate to say it's “to make art” because it sounds so
pretentious but when I started, before I did photography I did
artworks. I did it through the sculptures of the environment, and it was
all about the process of wondering. So what I care about is being out
of the world moving through it and the photographs for me are much
a document about movement through the world as they're of the
world itself and so I guess that's art, so I guess that's more important
to me.
Martin Parr: So the subjectivity it's absolutely core in the way you
Alec Soth: Absolutely, but I like that grey area in between. I mean
that is the thing about Robert Frank: he's a documentary
photographer but in his photographs there is so much about Robert
Frank as well.
Martin Parr: As you go on you tend to like doing the smaller projects
you often do them with digital. Do you imagine in years to come you
won't be using the 5x4 to do this rather bigger epic projects like
Niagara, Sleeping by the Mississippi Broken Manual?
Alec Soth: Absolutely. I started with that Robert Frank quote
because I like it, I was justifying that what I was doing it was so
expansive so I could do landscapes and portraits and whatever and
yet somehow you still get pigeon-holed. In the photography world it
tends to be with the equipment that you use, and there's this great
fascination with a larger camera and every kind of media interview
they like me to hold the camera and stand under it. That's so
secondary to what I'm interested in, I'm happy that I moved away
from it although I really love that technology.
Martin Parr: There is a big difference in your type of photography
when you have this large format camera or smaller digital isn't that?
This is a different relationship to the subject matter...
Alec Soth: Absolutely! Right now I'm interested in having that other
relationship, the thing about the large cameras is that you can't
photograph everything that moves so I'm interested in being in the
car and moving quickly and moving through the world in a different
way… this is the camera that I was saying at Magnum that drives
people crazy but I'm less and less interested in great pictures, I'm
more interested in communicating that feeling of movement.
Martin Parr: Your blog was very known in the early days, and I don't
know if people are aware of this. Is it still online? Can you go back to
the archive?
Alec Soth: Yes, you can go back to the archive.
Martin Parr: In fact one question I have to ask you is why did you
actually stop the blog.
Alec Soth: There are different answers in here, but let me say this is
about photography. Unlike anything else it functions in a world in all
this different ways so you can do advertising, you can do editorial,
you can do photojournalism… I like making big beautiful prints but
then I also put things online for free. I like exploring in all these
different ways.
Martin Parr: You're very promiscuous?
Alec Soth: I am! … And hot! Anyway and so with the blog, actually it
is related to this business of art because suddenly my life was all
about editions and prices on the business side of it, and I wanted
more conversation and talking about creating issues. I use the blog in
that way but then it started turning into its own business where people
were submitting things to me and getting upset and it was not fun
anymore in a way it was too big. So one day I just stopped. Little
brown Mushroom started because later on I was hungry for
something tactile, I wanted to make little things, little books to put
them up in the world so I started this little business and then that
turned into online aspect as well. There's one blog attached to that
and facebook and twitter and all the rest of it.
Martin Parr: So you still doing blog but it doesn't overwhelm you in
the way that it earlier...
Alec Soth: It doesn't overwhelm me and the other thing is that I'm
under the umbrella of this company so I'm just one part of it, I'm not
obligated to be there every day.
Martin Parr: But is Little Brown Mushroom self-financing?
Alec Soth: Yes, it's my business but it's like I always say: it is like a
lemonade stand and I'm not really trying to make money.
Martin Parr: I know that people are aware of this but you know, you
have published the book like the one of Trent Parke, you are clearly
interested on this whole way of disseminating photography into the
world and I see you're using Little Brown Mushroom as your sort of
platform to experiment with this...
Alec Soth: It's the exact way the Little Video Experiment started
under Little Brown Mushroom. Then eventually I went to the New
York Times and New York Times is fantastic, this gigantic audience,
it’s not just photography people, and these free little movies they get
enormous response… I like that but I also like making the hand cut
editions of three hundred books that very few people can own, so I
really like working across that spectrum.
Martin Parr: I know you said the other day the New York Times films
had a lot of a controversy...people either love them or hate them,
don't they?
Alec Soth: There were a lot of hates...
Martin Parr: How you suddenly find that some people are
antagonistic towards you? I'm asking this because I'm aware that
myself in my own career.
Alec Soth: It really did turned some corner, that was the other thing
with my blog. I've became uncomfortable with that, and with this New
York that I've been doing, like The most beautiful woman in Georgia
it's slightly sleazy… I'm playing a character and that's not necessarily
the good guy. Doing that on the New York Times, I generated a lot of
feedback but I like that. Like Sleeping by the Mississippi, people had
this image of me going down in the Mississippi in a boat… we're all
raft, and I'm not a dark screwed up guy. But I also have a sense of
humour and I wanted to get this sense of humour into the work and
so these little experiments allowed me to have different kind of
Martin Parr: Do you have any aspirations to take the filming further
into...maybe to making a document of yourself or even some fiction?
Alec Soth: One thing that's important to say that Broken Manual
book, for about two thirds I was been followed around by
documentary film-makers, just a crew of two of sort of very small and
discreet. Now with the technology there's a point where you don't
need a gigantic crew, which was what always kept me away of it. I'm
curious about and I'm also very aware how it's not my language, what
I like about this world of interactive media online is that it's a new
language and everyone is kind of trying to figure out how it works,
and so I'm in there playing around too.
Martin Parr: We're here at the Latin American Photo Forum and one
day and you may not know this photographer is a Colombian born
photographer… Carmen Soth, who's career is extremely illustrious.
She's just had a very big show in Brighton and she's eight years old!
Alec, can you tell us a bit more about Carmen Soth I believe you now
Alec Soth: Eight years ago my wife and I adopted Carmen from
Bogota, and I did this little book about the work called Dog days
Bogota. We went to Bogota for sort of two months and I made this
pictures. I'm just gonna show you a few. It's interesting talking about
this work here: I'm always nervous talking about it with people from
Latin America because I'm always worried about the reaction to it! It
has actually been quite good: surprisingly this work was recently
discovered in Bogota and there was a big newspaper article on it and
then a lot of press followed that. I'm uncomfortable in a sense that I
don't know anything about Bogota, this was seen this place through
the lens of my experience and my experience it's being a father, a
first time father. Is this place she's coming from and I thought how
might her parents looked like, finally I didn't meet them. This is at the
adoption agency, and then I was jut sort of wondering around
meeting people and thinking about her. So that was my experience of
the place. Then to go back to where you're referring to, I get this
commission to photograph in Brighton…
Martin Parr: From myself!
Alec Soth: From you! Yes, Martin was the curator at the Brighton
Biennial which opened like three weeks ago something. I was invited
to photograph in Brighton and I had this big visa problems, and I had
this really nasty guy in custom, and he ended up calling the agency
that was working on his behalf and I was forbidden from
photographing in England. But I was travelling with my family so I
thought a solution would be to have my daughter taking the pictures.
She often use my digital camera and it's really spectacular because
she took a hundred pictures and it's true democratic photography.
This was an experiment so for two weeks we photographed in
Brighton and she took two thousand pictures and she does have a
unique perspective on her own! You know she's closer to the ground
and she looks to the ground a lot. So we walked around and for me
the work was about a number of things and I was thinking about the
nature of democratic photography.
Martin Parr: So this dialogue you had with Carmen about what she
should photograph… tell us a bit about how that worked.
Alec Soth: Initially we just opted out that she photographed
everything she really loves photographing garbage. After a few days
she got kind of tired so I needed spicy it up and we would make this
list of things to photograph. It was like a treasure hunt, we
collaborated on the list but a lot of them were like pink things, dogs…
whatever it was, she was seeing the world from a child's perspective
and it is really something extraordinary because, like if you look at
this picture, that is actually how they see, they're down there and it is
something different and it's a very valid experience.
Martin Parr: It's pretty sovereign we have this rather good
photographs and she's eight, she may have a good mentor but
nonetheless it is amazing that the pictures are so sophisticated, I
mean I have to believe that there was quite of input in terms of your
Alec Soth: Here's the really surprise, I mean some might say “What
about dad over there?” but she take this picture and show me on the
screen and I'd say: “I wonder if you had centered up a little bit” and It
would totally destroy the picture. Because you feel that looseness
now if you try to shoot that way it would be kind of so naive and it
wouldn't really work. So something that I struggle is that I know too
much now, a real problem in photography is that you know it. As a
part of my room exhibition there's one installation called The house of
vernacular and all this sort of vernacular photography so often it’s the
greatest photograph that works… So what do you do when you know
Martin Parr: How can we manufacture innocence?
Alec Soth: Something to think about it...we just hire your child ?...
Martin Parr: You just had what I guess it's called in the business
“midterm retrospective right” or a mid career retrospective? How was
that actually suddenly seeing what you've done up to now upon the
wall … what did that make you think and feel?
Alec Soth: We don't use the word retrospective, I mean I wanted the
exhibition to have some shape, that's why I kept to America, but I
mean what's great at this point is that I know who I am now and then
photographically I know who I am now. I know my way of moving into
the world and it has stayed with me even when the work can look so
radically different and I think it's probably quite confusing to a larger
audience to understand this changes but I feel the connection to it.
Pergunta do público: Sua intenção foi mais de contar histórias do
que propriamente fotografar o mundo, e isso me parece ter sido uma
boa estratégia para a evolução da sua carreira, gostaria que você
comentasse isso.
Alec Soth: I'll came back to those artwork sculptures that I first got
excited about. You see Richard Long just making a line of stones and
what I love about that is to see what I get to imagine being on that
journey so do I really need to see a video of Richard Long
assembling the stones? So it was always the question of how much
do you tell the story and I think it's a good evolution but at the same
time I struggle because neither I reviewed too much the photograph
in which you imagine the whole experience yourself so. I'm
experimenting on this spectrum of storytelling, maybe some day I'll go
all the way to film making, we will see.
Carlos Carvalho: Qual é o retorno que você tem quando você
publica um livro? Qual é o universo, quantos exemplares tem uma
edição? Qual o retorno que você tem de público em comparação
com que você faz no blog, e que diferença tem de retorno?
Alec Soth: You won't get much feedback on the book. I mean it goes
out in the world and of course people say nice things to me but you
can't really believe in that. What I love about books is that it is a
private experience: someone is sitting in his house holding this thing
looking at it and that's what I treasure. I can only hope that they're
having that kind of experience someone recently told me that they
discovered my work by going to a library and find the book. When I
was younger that was the dream: to have my book in a library and the
internet has changed a lot of this. But at the same time I don't love
looking at work on screen, I think I'm old enough that I still like
holding the thing.
Martin Parr: You've got lots of humility but in order to answer that
supplying demand one of the things that tell so much about the world
is the first edition of Sleeping by the Mississippi: it's probably worth a
thousand dollars now and you're on the third edition and the third
edition it's also gone isn't it ? You're doing the fourth? Each one of
them has a different cover right, that's a very cunning plan because it
means all the real core collectors have to buy each edition?
Alec Soth: Are you talking about yourself Martin? I'll tell you the real
story about the first cover.It was great because it was so tactile… For
the second cover we decided to make one that was not for the
bookstores, more saleable. We did this and we totally screwed it up
so when I went to the third we go back to the first so we started doing
different covers.
Martin Parr: But now you have to continue that of course…
Alec Soth: I have to continue but one of the things that I've really
learned is that the world is going online like this, the digital world is
going online and I imagine that things like exhibitions catalogues on
your iPad. On the other side the physical object is becoming much
more physical, much more this thing you touch. The fact that I made
this cut out books it's because you want to hold the thing. I think the
analogy in music is that you can have free mp3 streaming music
online and then there is the vinyl resurgence of the album for the
collectors who want to possess the thing.
Martin Parr: Tomorrow of course we will be discussing the project of
the last series leading on the Latin American photo book…
Alec Soth: Yes, it's interesting how much energy there is around in
photo books right now...
Pergunta do público: Com a resposta a esta última pergunta e
sabendo que o acesso a arte e cultura é um pouco limitado, vamos
pensar um pouco, não nos colecionadores mas no público em geral.
Lógico que temos que pensar em estratégias para o público acessar
a cultura e a arte, mas eu queria fazer uma pergunta num aspecto
mais subjetivo e não esse mais estratégico. Você disse que se
preocupa pouco com aspectos técnicos da fotografia e mais com o
que se transmite, com a história que é levada para quem entra em
contato com isso. É possível aproveitar isso para aproximar o público
em geral da arte? Porque eu acho que quando as pessoas veem
fotos maravilhosas, super bem elaboradas, elas as sentem como
algo inatingível, inalcançável. Queria saber o quanto você acha que
isso pode popularizar a produção e o acesso à arte, independente
das estratégias para que isso ocorra.
Alec Soth: The great attraction of photography for me is its
accessibility so even if it's a larger camera and there's a lot of detail
whatever, audience as you know can related to it very easily so the
children can relate to it, the grandmother can relate to it. I mean one
thing I'd like to say about accessibility is that, for example in Magnum
there's this issue about putting pictures online, and at Magnum's
website they have watermarks that drives me crazy on the images.
On my website every picture from the project is there and then you
can click on it. It's quite large and downloadable and allow people to
use it. I'm quite opened in that sense.... sorry don't know how to
Martin Parr: Thank you Alec!

2˚ Fórum Latino-americano de Fotografia de São Paulo Martin Parr