Since the publication of his series Sleeping by the Mississippi in 2004 and his inclusion as a full member of the photo agency Magnum in 2008, Alec Soth (b. 1969) has been an established artist in the international photo scene.
In kaleidoscopic series such as Looking for Love (1996), NIAGARA (2006), Broken Manual (2010), and Songbook(2015), Soth reflects on social realities that go beyond omnipresent images, glamour and advertising campaigns, and politically constructed “realities.” Poetic and melancholic interiors and haunting portraits of people in their living spaces in suburban and urban landscapes photographed during his travels around the United States reveal the deep economic, ethnic, and human rifts that divide American society.
The series I Know How Furiously Your Heart Is Beating, which Soth created between 2017 and 2018, shows people in interior settings. While in Sleeping by the Mississippi his focus was on the surroundings of his protagonists, he now turns to the portrait genre—subjective and intimate—in large-scale photographs.
As Soth put it himself: “When I returned to photography, I wanted to strip the medium down to its primary elements. Rather than trying to make some sort of epic narrative about America, I wanted to simply spend time looking at other people and, hopefully, glimpse their interior life.”
The people depicted in his portraits—most of whom he met on his trips around North America and Europe—have different social backgrounds. Using a large-format camera, Soth shows them in their interiors surrounded by personal objects.
This series derives its title from “The Gray Room” (1917), a poem by Wallace Stevens (1879–1955), which poses the question of how the complexity of human feelings and metaphysical questions about existence can be expressed in the relationship of the sitters to their surroundings and to the photographer. Employing determining perspectives, reflections, and both focus and blurriness, Soth also asks this question, creating complex images that oscillate between interaction and distance. In a sense the reflections in these pictures also reflect Soth’s own artistic process. The physical and emotional presence of the people represented are linked to Soth’s own observations, although the nature of the relationship between the sitter and the photographer often remains ambiguous.
Alec Soth lives and works in in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His photographs have been exhibited in numerous solo and group shows at institutions such as Deichtorhallen, Haus der Fotografie, Hamburg (2018); National Science and Media Museum, London, Bradford (2015, 2016); The Finnish Museum of Photography, Helsinki (2016–17); Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan (2016); El Museo de Bogotá (2013); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2010); Fotomuseum Winterthur (2008); and Jeu de Paume, Paris (2008). Works by Alec Soth are part of many collections, including Art Collection Deutsche Börse, Frankfurt am Main; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
The book I Know How Furiously Your Heart Is Beating, published by MACK Books (London) in 2019, documents Soth’s eponymous series of the same name and is being released in conjunction with the exhibitions at Loock, Berlin; Weinstein Hammons Gallery, Minneapolis (March 15–May 4, 2019); Sean Kelley, New York (March 21–April 27, 2019); and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco (March 23–May 11, 2019).