Through his series Sleeping by the Mississippi (2004), Niagara (2006), Broken Manual (2010) and the highly-acclaimed recent Songbook (2014), Soth has established himself as a vibrant, distinctive voice in contemporary international art. His work is characterised by a lyrical approach to documentary photography and a restless experimentation across the many forms that photography can take: from exhibitions and books, to zines and digital media.
Soth, who lives and works in Minnesota, is a fine artist, a Magnum photojournalist, a blogger, a self-publisher, an Instagrammer and an educator. His work shares a fascination for the open road with the great chroniclers of American life: Robert Frank, Stephen Shore, Jack Kerouac.
Alec Soth said: ‘One of the joys of being a photographer is the ability to present my work both in the pages of a book and on the walls of a gallery. With my exhibition at Media Space I’m going to explore this complex relationship between the book and the wall. I’m particularly thrilled to be doing this in London; a place where I’ve had an enthusiastic readership but have barely ever exhibited. I feel like I’m making up for lost time by finally presenting my four major projects at once: Sleeping by the Mississippi, Niagara, Broken Manual and Songbook.’
In Songbook, Soth elucidates modern American life in stunning and timeless black and white. The project emerged from a series of road trips he embarked on with his friend, the writer Brad Zellar. Posing as local newspaper reporters, over the course of two years they crossed seven states and attended hundreds of meetings, dances, festivals, and communal gatherings.
The resulting stories were published by Soth’s own imprint, Little Brown Mushroom, as an ad hoc series of Dispatches from the different states visited. In Songbook, Soth isolates his photographs from their original news context, and in doing so, evokes a human desire for interaction in an era increasingly defined by virtual social networks. Funny, fragmentary and sad, Songbook is a lyrical meditation on the tension between American individualism and the urge to be united.
Gathered Leaves: Photographs by Alec Soth will run in Media Space until 28 March 2016 before transferring to the National Media Museum, Bradford, from 22 April to 26 June 2016. The exhibition will then tour to the Finnish Museum of Photography, Helsinki from 25 August 2016 to 8 January 2017 and FoMu – FotoMuseum Antwerp, Belgium from 17 February to 4 June 2017.