Learning from Alec Soth
Listening to Alec Soth wander through the muses and retrospectives of his work is an inspiration. Last night at Photolucida he gave a rare insight into what makes the creative mind so brilliantly perspective and so able to discover the ideas the rest of us miss. He really did wander as he gave a talk that was at times clumsy and at times brilliantly lucid. He took questions as a prompt to search his computer for slide shows he had previously delivered. He compared the twin muses of order and chaos, of introversion and extroversion and, perhaps most importantly, his capacity to take a lead when offered and start a new journey. This is not the ordered and meticulous brain of a scientist or manager, this is an inquisition.
What was on display last night was the power of being open to discovery rather than seeking explanation. This was inquiry with no purpose other than inquiry. It is where innovation comes from, it is where new insights emerge. Not from predisposition but from exploration. Soth’s work often has the melancholia of modern life, itself an insight. Beneath the single image is a passionate commitment to telling a human story and part of Soth’s talk focussed on how photographers had to evolve into more complete storytellers, in partnership with writers if need be. There is a surfeit of photographic images that forces the photographic artist to be an even more powerful storyteller. This is good news not bad as photography becomes more and more like a universal language.
You could feel the new media emerging from the old, with a fresh focus on non commercial narratives that open our minds to the real world. Exciting stuff.