Alec Soth: ‘Gathered Leaves’

19 June 2016

I went to see Alec Soth’s exhibition ‘Gathered Leaves’ at the Bradford Media Museum.

I was sorry I missed the OCA meeting -up with Derek Trillo but I was fortunately able to go, with my husband, later.

As soon as I entered the second floor gallery, I was stopped in my tracks by the first three images, which perhaps were among my favourite of the whole exhibition.

This was the ‘Sleeping  by the Mississippi’ exhibition and the three images were Peter’s House Boat, Charles, and St. Genevieve.

Permission was given to take photographs in the gallery and these are my images of Soth’s work:



I watched the OCA film about Alec Soth’s exhibition and was fascinated by his account of his Mississippi project. He describes his photographing ‘the different lives lived by the river’ as about a ‘boyish wanderlust’ (Soth 2016) and he describes his love of travelling and photographing whatever makes him curious. I love this idea of photographing everyday life. His exhibition reminds me of both Les Monaghan and Sharon Boothroyd, in its portrayal of the everyday and its consequent validation of ordinary people’s lives.

Soth’s second exhibition, Niagara, was equally arresting:

I stood and looked at Soth’s ‘Falls’, below, for a long time.


This image took my breath away.

Niagara is about ‘love and life after the honeymoon’ and includes a series of images showing the lives of real people. The image above is beautiful but, for me, it is different to the other images in this series. Here is another favourite:



These images clearly show life after the honeymoon. I think this is a beautiful image of the real life of a young woman living the reality of motherhood after the honeymoon period is over.

I would like to end this post about Alec Soth with a few of the quotes he made in his interview with Andreai  Codrescu:

‘I don’t like taking pictures without permission’

‘Taking a great individual picture is easy – all about luck. But assembling those pictures together is a really difficult thing’

‘Controlling the sequence is like lines of poetry, putting it together’ (Soth 2016)

I admire his ‘fairness’ shown in the first quote. I can relate to this reluctance to take advantage of people through photography, and I admire this. I admired Les Monagham for his emphasis on fairness – see previous post, and I feel this in my own photography. I would not appreciate having my photograph taken without my consent, and I respect that others may feel the same way.

Soth says that the hardest part is talking people into having their pictures taking. I am certainly not the ‘used car salesman of an artist’ that he has been described as.

The last two quotes show how Soth feels that a single image can’t tell a whole story, and the difficulty of selecting a series of images to convey a story. In his interview with Codrescu, he tells of the difficulty in selecting the right images, not only for his exhibitions, but for this interview. His likening of the selecting of his photographs to the writing of lines of poetry linked for me, my love of literature and of photography and emphasised photography as ‘a legitimate medium, equal in status to painting and sculpture’  (Cotton 2004 p 7)


Cotton, C. (2004) The photograph as Cotemporary Art. London: Thames & Hudson.

Soth, A with Codrescu, A. (2016) Alec Soth with Andrei Codrescu. [interview] At: (Accessed 29 June 2016)

Soth, A. (2016) Gathered Leaves. [Exhibition]: Bradford: Bradford Media Museum




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