Jacob Charles Wilson

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Bedroom shots: Alec Soth on the intimacy of personal space

for Huck Magazine
An old shirtless man appears to be thrown back onto a sofa, his sunken eyes are wide and his skin loosened and tattooed.

The influence of Alec Soth on contemporary photography is almost immeasurable, there are countless practitioners whose work, consciously or otherwise, resembles the Soth's humanist studies of rural backwaters and abandoned communities captured in his Sleeping by the Mississippi. Meanwhile, Soth found himself questioning and eventually regretting this practice.

He underwent a period of self-reflection and for two years essentially quit photography. When Soth once again stumbled back into the practice he decided to work indoors, still photographing strangers, but without the spontaneity that a road trip demands, instead dedicating hours to understanding his subjects. The resulting book, I Know How Furiously Your Heart Is Beating, sees Soth turn towards intimacy and empathy.

When I started again I didn’t want to do a big American project, a complicated narrative and all this stuff coming together, I just wanted to be a photographer. I really wanted to strip everything down to just being in a room with another person. I wanted to get away from this feeling of exploitation and all those ethical quandaries you have to work out on the fly.

ALTERNATIVE

What is an artist to do when they come to regret their early work, especially when this disavowal comes about as a result of its popularity? I spoke with Alec Soth about his two-year period of self-reflection and near-abandonement of photography, and how how he came to return to the practice and publish a new book of intimate portraits, I Know How Furiously Your Heart Is Beating.

When I started again I didn’t want to do a big American project, a complicated narrative and all this stuff coming together, I just wanted to be a photographer. I really wanted to strip everything down to just being in a room with another person. I wanted to get away from this feeling of exploitation and all those ethical quandaries you have to work out on the fly.