Foam opens the first museum exhibition of Alec Soth's new series

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Foam opens the first museum exhibition of Alec Soth's new series
Anna Kentfield California 2017 © Alec Soth / Magnum Photos, loan from Loock Galerie, Berlin.

AMSTERDAM.- Magnum photographer Alec Soth (1969) has become known as the chronicler of life at the American margins of the United States. He made a name as a photographer with his 2004 series Sleeping by the Mississippi, encountering unusual and often overlooked places and people as he travelled along the river banks. A major retrospective in 2015 was followed by a period of seclusion and introspection, during which Soth did not travel and barely photographed. His most recent project, I Know How Furiously Your Heart Is Beating, is the result of this personal search, and marks a departure from Soth’s earlier work. The photographer slowed down his work process and turned the lens inward. Foam presents the first museum exhibition of his new series, consisting of portraits of remarkable people in their habitat, and still-lifes of their personal belongings.

Starting point was a portrait Soth made in 2017 of the then-97-year-old choreographer Anna Halprin in her home in California. The interaction with this exceptional woman in her most intimate surroundings meant a breakthrough for Soth. Instead of focusing on a place, a community or demography, he concentrated on individuals and their private settings. Unlike many of Soth’s previous visual narratives, the choice of geographical location was not preconceived, but the result of a series of chance encounters.

The sometimes desperate desire for human contact, or lack thereof, is a theme that runs throughout Soth’s work. In an attempt to approach his subjects, Soth worked at the sitters’ homes with a slow large-format camera, almost exclusively using natural light. This laborious approach to photography is time-consuming and requires the subject to remain still in the presence of the photographer for extended periods. In addition to spending time, Soth used space as another way to overcome (or emphasise) the distance that inevitably exists between photographer and photographed. While windows and doors create a sense of detachment in the photographs, they simultaneously mark a point of entry from the outer to the inner world. The result is an intimate and often contemplative image; a photograph like a day dream.

Soth’s photographs have been compared with poetry. His photo series lack a clear linear narrative. Through omission and suggestion, ample room is left to the imagination. The series title I Know How Furiously Your Heart Is Beating is derived from the 1917 poem The Gray Room by Wallace Stevens, in which subtle and superficial observations lead one to suspect fiery emotions below the surface. As in Stevens’s poem, Soth’s portraits and still-lifes suggest an inner life that is as rich as it is unreachable.

Alec Soth (1969) lives and works in his birthplace Minneapolis. His work has featured in solo exhibitions at prominent museums including Jeu de Paume in Paris, FOMU in Antwerp, Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and MediaSpace in London. His photographs are part of important museum collections such as the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, MoMA in New York and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Soth has published several monographs including Looking for Love (2012), Sleeping by the Mississippi (2004), NIAGARA (2006), Dog Days, Bogotá (2007), Paris/Minnesota (2007), Last Days of W (2008), Broken Manual (2010), From Here to There (2010), La Belle Dame Sans Merci (2011), Songbook (2015), and Gathered Leaves (2015). His most recently published work is I Know How Furiously Your Heart Is Beating (2019). In 2008 Soth launched Little Brown Mushroom: a multi-media enterprise focused on visual storytelling.

Soth has received several distinctions and fellowships, including the Infinity Award of the International Center of Photography in 2011 and the Guggenheim Fellowship in 2013. He is a member of Magnum Photos and is represented by Sean Kelly in New York, Weinstein Hammons Gallery in Minneapolis, Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco and Loock Galerie in Berlin.

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