OCAT Xi'an is honoured to present Amercan photographer Alec Soth's solo exhibition "The Space Between Us" in China. Alec Soth is described by Mick Brown of Britain's Telegraph newspaper as "one of greatest living photographers of America's social and geographical landscape'. Since his debut series "Sleeping by the Mississippi", 2004, created an immediate stir the same year of its release at the Whitney Biennial, Soth's works have been presented in museums and galleries around the world. Soth was invited to join Magnum Photos in 2006, and through his own imprint Little Brown Mushroom, as well as in collaboration with others, has published over 25 photo books to date.
The Familiar Stranger
'The problem with photography is that it is a form of art that is all about the surface, so the photographer must reflect himself upon the subject while taking photos.' ----Alec Soth
A unique aspect of Soth's work lies in his exploration of how to photograph people. Using photography as a medium to record an encounter, Soth pays particular attention to observing ordinary people against the background of the times, particularly the mundane nature of their social life, creating a delicate chemical reaction between himself and the subject. He is not a distant, high and mighty photographer, nor a photojournalist prying on the life of marginalized people, but he recounts his vulnerability and contradiction through his distance with others. His photography reveals an underlying sense of humanity and shared experience even in the most solitary of places. Soth manages to evoke states of mind, moods that linger in the twilight zone between the romantic and the real, shot through with a dose of desolate, yet intimate melancholia. He shows a most honest and tender rendition of human emotions, at once subtle and raw. Soth enjoys walking into a person’s life, whether to step into their living space, or shoot some detail of their environment. By using depth of field and focal points to direct the viewers’ attention, at all times, just close enough – and just far enough away, Soth is carefully examining the space between himself and the subject.
Soth uses his process to highlight the importance of digging into life, demonstrating that by capturing intimate scenes photography can express as strong a world view as by photographing grand public events. A patient observer, he spends a lot of time with each of his subjects. The works often present a sense of poetry beyond the still image. An aura of intimacy and solitude is everywhere in Soth's works, and is a unifying feature of his visual language. The nostalgic, melancholy emotions he captures offer a powerful, warm sense of comfort in what has become a time of uncertainty. Soth's perspective on society and ordinary people, the way he injects this into his photographs, has had a profound impact on an entire generation of young photographers today. By putting himself among the masses, as one of them, everyone can see themselves through Soth's work.
Photography as the bridge between Soth and the world
'Photography is about separation. It’s about feeling distance between yourself and the subject. I realised that my work is about connecting these two dots; me, the photographer, and the subject.' ---Alec Soth
"The Space Between Us" is not a fully retrospective exhibition, but presents a total of 43 representative works from the major series "Perfect Strangers", "Looking for Love", "Sleeping by the Mississippi", "Niagara", "Broken Manual", "Songbook", and his latest "I Know How Furiously Your Heart Is Beating". The selection allows viewers to follow his emotional and physical journeys, and the creative path he has taken through different periods of his work.
Soth describes himself as an introverted, shy person. Photography provides him a chance to approach strangers, and becomes a bridge for him to connect the world. His photographic journey began in the interior region of North America, closeby his home state, Minnesota, and by photographing the overlooked side of ordinary American life. His distinctive observation of history and society, found in series like "Sleeping by the Mississippi", "Broken Manual" and "Niagara", have won Soth respected status in the western art world. 'Alec's work is personal, but also American. Perhaps Alec only constructs a world that he sees while roaming with confusion and doubt, but it is his personal perspective that gently lifts the veil on the overlooked corners of a nation, captures a portrait of today's America, and in a poetic way leads people into a story that cannot otherwise be told.' But the questions and content that Soth expresses have a universal, human value that cuts across time and space. This exhibition "The Space Between Us" is also conceived to encourage young Chinese photographers to look at the normal life that surrounds them and find the value in even the most humble and ordinary of lives.
The exhibition runs from January 23 to May 30, 2021.
Media comment on Alec Soth
'Soth has made a "photographic career out of finding chemistry with strangers" and photographs "loners and dreamers".'
--- New York Times art critic Hilarie M. Sheets
'His work focuses on "off-beat, hauntingly banal images of modern America."'
--- Guardian art critic Hannah Booth
'Soth is the greatest living photographer of America's social and geographical landscape.'
---- Telegraph writer Mick Brown
About the Photographer
Alec Soth (born 1969) lives and works in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He has published over 25 books, including his first critically acclaimed monograph Sleeping by the Mississippi (2004). This was followed by Niagara (2006), Fashion Magazine (2007), Dog Days, Bogotá (2007), The Last Days of W (2008), Broken Manual (2010), Songbook (2015), Gathered Leaves (2015), and I Know How Furiously Your Heart Is Beating (2019) among others. In 2008 Soth started his own publishing company, Little Brown Mushroom, which is based in Minnesota.
His work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at international museums including the Deichtorhallen Internationale Kunst und Fotografie, Hamburg; the National Media Museum, Bradford, UK; The Finnish Museum, Helsinki; the Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan; El Museo de Bogotá, Colombia; the Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland; the Jeu de Paume, Paris; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.
His work is in the permanent collections of institutions including the Brooklyn Museum of Art; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, amongst others.