Alec Soth




Alec Soth (born 1969) is a leading contemporary American photographer, working in the documentary tradition. Soth is celebrated for his series Sleeping by the Mississippi, Niagara and Broken Manual, which merge a documentary style with a poetic sensibility.

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Early Years

Alec Soth was born in 1969, and grew up in rural Minnesota. He studied at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. Soth’s inclusion in the 2004 Whitney Biennial quickly led to international acclaim. He is now celebrated as one of the most important US photographers working today.

Sleeping by the Mississippi

His first photographic series, Sleeping by the Mississippi, evolved from a series of road trips along the Mississippi River made between 1999 and 2002. The series captured America’s iconic yet often neglected “third coast”, and took Soth from his native Minnesota down into the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. Soth used a large-format 8 x 10 inch camera to create richly descriptive colour photographs, presenting an eclectic mix of individuals, landscapes, and interiors that he discovered along the river’s path. Like Robert Frank’s classic The Americans, Sleeping by the Mississippi merged a documentary style with poetic sensibility. The Mississippi is less the subject of the series than its organising structure. Not bound by a rigid concept or ideology, Soth created the series out of a quintessentially American spirit of wanderlust.

Soth followed Sleeping by the Mississippi with the 2006 series NIAGARA, in which he documented the famous falls as the site of “spectacular suicides and affordable honeymoons.” His series Broken Manual looked to those Americans who have abandoned civilisation for inspiration.

Publications and Exhibitions

Soth is a member of Magnum Photos and runs an independent publishing company LBM (Little Brown Mushroom). He has published over twenty-five books including Sleeping by the Mississippi (2004), NIAGARA (2006) Broken Manual (2010) and Songbook (2015).

Soth has had over fifty solo exhibitions including survey shows organized by Jeu de Paume in Paris (2008), the Walker Art Center in Minnesota (2010) and Media Space in London (2015). Soth has been the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards, including the Guggenheim Fellowship (2013). His work is in the permanent collections of numerous museums, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

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