Interview: Alec Soth
In this weeks long-overdue interview section, my compadre Daniel Shea interviews Alec Soth. Big ups to Daniel for this excellent and informed interview, check out his site if his name is new to you. This site is always open to contributors, so if you’d like to author an interview, by all means drop me a line through the contact form above!
Daniel Shea: A couple weeks ago I called Alec at his studio in Minnesota. I put my phone on speaker and recorded the conversation with an analog tape player. Here is the result.
Daniel Shea: For me, part of being an artist and a photographer is existing in a state of constant reconciliation. For example, reconciling a work’s inevitable reading in a gallery or book form and the work’s initial intentions. There’s reconciling the business and the love of the practice. There’s reconciling an interest in taking photography to a new place and loving the inherent qualities of a rather traditional medium. Do you agree, are you in a state of constant reconciliation?
Alec Soth: Yes, although, one thing I’ll allow myself is great freedom in terms of the way the work is read or what have you. I just found that at a certain point I wasn’t a photographer on a mission. I’m interested in something more like poetry in that the work can be interpreted in different ways. I’m cool with people taking whatever they want to take from it. There would be more reconciliation necessary if I was trying to alter the political infrastructure of Colombia. There is some of it, just not as much, certainly the commerce side of it, it exists (laughter).
DS: So do you find the reconciliation process taking place in terms of commerce?
AS: Yeah, I mean there was a time in my life where I essentially made the work for myself and had no audience, and thus no commerce. And there was great freedom in that, but of course it was miserable (laughter). I mean you want people to see the work…
DS: Well, you’re talking to the right audience about that for this website…
AS: But then it flips and then you have an audience and people buy work and that’s great. But there’s all this crap that comes along with it. And you just don’t have that same kind of purity of intention, it’s a little bit lost, it’s different. Which is not to say I make work for the market place.
DS: Well, I guess when reading interviews with other established artists, making work and existing in the market, there’s less reconciliation, rather just acceptance of it being what it is, funding for the next personal project, a family…
AS: It’s always evolving on a project-by-project basis. It’s funny because I’m quite secretive about the work I’m in the middle of usually, although it’s getting harder and harder to do that. There’s just constantly a demand to talk about what I’m working on. Even in an interview like this, just someone asking you your opinion, I think it’s a good thing, but it also just makes you self-conscious.