Joshua, Angola State Prison, Louisiana 2002 © Alec Soth

Alec Soth shot to notoriety before I dipped my toes in photography appreciation. He also terminated his treasured blog before I could jump aboard.

I missed the early boat on Soth’s work and have always felt quite maudlin about that. Really there is no need for my malaise; Soth has travailed the papers, the cameras and the blogs as widely as he has the American Interstates. He has left a busy legacy of interviews.

The sheer number of interviews contributed further to my sense of awe – they amassed to an unscalable mountain of words that needed to be noticed because, as Soth continually insists, photographs cannot tell stories.

During his trips making Sleeping by the Mississippi, Soth asked many of his subjects “What is your dream?” He ended up not using the responses for the book, but held onto the scraps of paper on which folk had written their dreams.

Fort Jefferson Memorial Cross, Wickliffe, Kentucky 2002 © Alec Soth

Of all the responses, the man who stands second from left in the Kentucky prison work crew (above) had Soth’s favourite dream. He said, “I want to operate and own a pilot school”. Soth liked how the dream was “both specific and grand”.

I know this because Soth mentions it in this fantastic presentation and discussion with Andrei Codrescu at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. If you have an hour and seventeen minutes to spare this weekend watch and listen to it.

If not, bookmark any one of these interviews and read at some point in the next year.

Soth with Michael David Murphy
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7PpxTHqYWI
Soth on Assignments
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrNUoZ1ye6Y
Soth on Portraits
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yvgg6bLhJE4
Soth with Ben Sloat
http://www.bigredandshiny.com/cgi-bin/BRS.cgi?section=article&issue=119&article=20091016133834289803794155
Soth with Aaron Schuman
http://www.seesawmagazine.com/soth_pages/soth_interview.html
Soth with Carrie Thompson
http://blog.magnumphotos.com/2007/11/interview_alec_soth_on_dog_days_bogota.html
Soth with Daniel Shea
http://toomuchchocolate.org/?p=1067
Daniel Shea on Soth
http://dsheaphoto.net/blog/?p=700
Soth with Anthony LaSala
http://www.pdnonline.com/pdn/esearch/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1002235383
Soth with Paul Schmelzer
http://blogs.walkerart.org/visualarts/2006/05/01/the-binoculographer/
Soth with James Miller
http://www.americansuburbx.com/2009/07/interview-presience-and-poetry-james.html
Soth with Conor Risch
http://www.pdnonline.com/pdn/content_display/photo-news/photojournalism/e3i260af0867f21cdd31a1211bb5ab07a85
Soth with Jeff Severns Guntzel
http://www.citypages.com/2008-01-23/feature/freeze-frame/
Soth with Roger Rochards
http://www.digitalfilmmaker.net/photo/alecsoth/2004.html
Soth with Joerg Colberg
http://www.jmcolberg.com/weblog/2006/08/a_conversation_with_alec_soth.html
Soth with Paul Laster
http://artkrush.com/105630
Soth with Jen Bekman
http://www.photoeye.com/magazine/archives/fullsize.cfm?Issue=fall_2007&IssueID=080815010312-d1c9488974b54b24866088a30b84ccf8#magtop
Soth with Minnesota Public Radio
http://www.publicradio.org/tools/media/player/news/features/2005/06/15_newsroom_sothportraits
Minnesota Public Radio without Soth
http://minnesota.publicradio.org/features/2008/06/04_soth2/index.shtml
Hilarie M. Sheets on Soth
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/02/arts/design/02shee.html
and Rob Haggart on Soth’s back
http://www.aphotoeditor.com/2008/07/09/whats-up-with-alec-soth/
Yasmina Reggad interviews Soth with an exchange of images
http://thedignityofmovemenoftheiceberg.wordpress.com/

The Farm, Angola State Prison, Louisiana 2002 © Alec Soth

In the same discussion with Andrei Codrescu Soth confessed to avoiding too much research before he goes to a place; he doesn’t want to burden himself with the knowledge. He also expressed surprise and delight at coming across the histories of places and institutions he’d not consciously sought out … and of those he mentioned prisons.

I was going to add some analysis to these pictures but now that I have exorcised my fear of the massive cult, enjoyment and coverage of Soth, I think I’ll just drop him a line and ask him about incarceration in America. Stay tuned.

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