01 November 2006
Ever since my hands first opened Sleeping by the Mississippi (Steidl, 2005) and my eyes glanced at the world through Alec Soth's mind, I have been returning to his images, time and time again. In them I find something quite remarkable. I call it the intense gaze. It seems to me that Soth - when looking at the world - can see right through it, into its narrative core.
When I see a bus full of people, crossing my way as I walk to work, I always wonder what stories each and everyone in that bus could tell me. If Soth were to photograph that imaginary bus of mine, I am pretty sure that he - his intense gaze - would answer my question. Maybe the resulting photograph would not have told me every person's story. I am, however, convinced that it would not have been far off the mark.
In an interview in SeeSaw Magazine, Soth objects: "I long for stories. Novels and movies satisfy, but photographs often leave me feel like something is missing. [...] Some day I would like to figure out a way to tell a good story." I do not agree. At all. Soth's photographs, to me, are full of stories.
The story of Soth that have affected me the most is the story of Dog Days. It is the story of Carmen Laura - and the story of Bogotá. Soth writes:
My wife and I adopted our baby girl, Carmen Laura, from Bogotá, Colombia. While the courts processed her paperwork, we spent two months in Bogotá waiting to take Carmen home.
Carmen's birthmother gave her a book filled with letters, pictures and poems. "I hope that the hardness of the world will not hurt your sensitivity," she wrote, "When I think about you I hope that your life is full of beautiful things."
With those words as a mission statement, I began making my own book for Carmen. In photographing the city of her birth, I hope I've described some of the beauty in this hard place.
Below you will find some of the photographs Alec Soth made for Carmen. More of Soth's work can be seen here.
Invited by Joakim Sebring.