Looking at Alec Soth’s project Sleeping by the Mississippi, I can clearly see influences of William Eggleston in Soth’s work – the blood red decorated bar with the single occupant dressed in a lilac coloured fleece; a book resting on a window sill between two gauzy green curtains. But the strength of his work lies in the narrative he weaves from one photograph to the next. The work is about his journeys along the Mississippi river – not so much about the actual river per se, but more so about a reflection of his wanderlust experiences and the people he encounters.
Like Shore’s Uncommon Places, Soth’s work is also about colour. His palette is more muted than that Shore’s (interspersed with some vivid, striking images to shake the viewer up) and in my mind creates a better coherence in the series. I was particularly taken with his landscape photos.
Some notes I made after reading his interview with Seesaw magazine follow:
- Joel Sternfeld was his mentor.
- Soth regards the process of wandering around making photos as a performance.
- His work is more lyrical than documentary.
- He feels photography is not good at telling stories.
- He prefers that his work be regarded as a unified whole instead of separate images.
- Sequencing images is incredibly difficulty but for him the “art is in the collection and interplay of images”.
- The Mississippi river is a metaphor for wandering.
- His images reflect his own “river”. He chose not to include condo developments and skyscrapers in his series.
- He tries to follow Robert Frank’s model for finding and sequencing images by using mood and motifs. Motifs provide a thread through the work without being overused.
A video of the book can be seen on this link.
PhotoBookStore (2012). Sleeping by the Mississippi. Available at: https://vimeo.com/44662076 [Accessed 22 June, 2017]
Schuman, A (2004). The Mississippi – An interview with Alec Soth [online]. SeeSaw Magazine. Available at: http://seesawmagazine.com/soth_pages/soth_interview.html [Accessed 22 June, 2017]
Soth, Alec. Sleeping by the Mississippi. [online] Available at: http://alecsoth.com/photography/?page_id=14 [Accessed 22 June 2017]