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Photographic Neuroses: Alec Soth’sA Pound of Pictures

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On Photography

alec soth,Quan Am Monastery。孟菲斯,田纳西州, 2021, archival pigment print, 24 x 30″. All images copyright © Alec Soth. Courtesy of Sean Kelly, New York.

他在美国旅行,这张照片grapher Alec Soth likes to visit Buddhist temples and sometimes to ask the monks if photography, with its “desire to stop and possess time,” is antithetical to their teachings. He reports that the response is often some variation on “No, I love taking pictures!” After one such interaction in Connecticut, he found that the monk in question had even tagged him in a photo on Facebook. The average American monk, it seems, isn’t concerned about whether the photographic impulse may be a neurotic one born ofupādāna或者是世俗的依恋。虽然,孤岛清楚地是。

Since he burst onto the scene in 2004 with his now canonical book由密西西比河睡觉, Soth has been one of the great visual chroniclers of the American condition.他的工作,武装沃克·埃文斯的文档主义,威廉蛋蛋糕的“与明显的战争”斗争;它始终刺激了这个国家的心理社会景观,检查了我们是谁以及我们如何统称。But his new project,A Pound of Pictures, takes a turn inward. Here, America as Soth finds it serves less as a subject than as a vehicle to examine the photographic medium itself, and his relationship to it. The book and the exhibition play on our desire to memorialize, to preserve pieces of experience. Many of these images contain another photograph somewhere in the frame—there are, by my count, seven pictures of people taking pictures—and interwoven throughout are a handful of portraits of well-known image makers: Sophie Calle, Duane Michals, Nancy Rexroth.

当窝开始这个工作的时候,他并没有打算拍照照片。他的原始计划是遵循亚伯拉罕林肯殡仪列车的路线,“试图哀悼美国的潜力。”但项目,他写道,感觉“生气”缺乏谜团的根本意识,使他最好的工作嗡嗡声。所以,他抛弃了这种方法,试图少想又觉得更多,让他的相机由内在的摄影指南针 - 他并不总是理解的本能,但已经学会了信任。结果是A Pound of Pictures, a project that is political only in that it asks a people mindlessly producing billions of images every day: What are we doing? And why are we doing it?

I spoke to Soth over the phone just after touring his exhibition at Sean Kelly Gallery in New York. I wanted to ask him some similar questions about the medium he has devoted his life to, and to push him on its efficacy and purpose. But Soth gives no definitive answers, either in our interview or in his photographs: both are structured less by conclusions than by his wandering, wondering curiosity. A selection of photographs fromA Pound of Pictures跟随面试。

INTERVIEWER

该项目标题为A Pound of Pictures. What was it that appealed to you about thinking of photographs not as weightless visual data but as tangible objects?

SOTH

在大流行期间,在一个突发事件上,我创建了一个摄影史的时间表。我把它放在一张纸上。然后我将我的职业生涯塑造为拍摄者,并看到我的整个早期发育阶段发生在纯粹的模拟世界中。当我的职业生涯起飞时,喷墨印刷到达了。然后,在我的一些关键年期间,我们知道它的互联网。我想标记这个过渡。并不是说,我认为物质而不是数字是重要的,但我想把自己的强迫措施解决身体。

INTERVIEWER

我知道你不会扔掉照片,并且你以相当大的数量收集白话照片。但我很惊讶地听到你甚至删除了手机删除了图像的困难。你为什么这么认为是?

SOTH

这way I learned to think of the medium of photography was that the whole point of taking a picture was to preserve a moment. So, throwing away a negative? I can’t conceive of it. Even damaged negatives, ones with giant light leaks, I don’t throw away. I recently read这Night Albums由凯特帕尔默·艾尔斯,并了解到在摄影的最初,最初二十年左右,他们努力让照片永久。一旦实现,持久性就会成为点,但它不一定是这样。我们如何与图片沟通的新世界是在某种程度上回归那个开始:预期摄影状态。

INTERVIEWER

所以,对你来说,扔掉一张照片是拍照的冲动柜台?

SOTH

I sometimes use this analogy: photography is like fishing. Why can’t we all just catch and release? Somehow that seems like a more ethical form of photography. Like, we could go out with binoculars instead of a camera and just look at the world. Why do we have to pin it down?

INTERVIEWER

You could just look through your viewfinder all day and never click the shutter.

SOTH

Exactly. A hunter, on the other hand—I’m not a hunter, by the way—probably wouldn’t wait out in a blind for five hours in the cold unless there was the possibility of taking down the deer. I’m not mounting and hanging every fish I catch, but I do feel the need to save all of them.

INTERVIEWER

A Pound of Pictures让我想重新探索sontag,并考虑激励我们拍照的原因。走在展览周围和花时间与书,我开始敏锐地意识到照片冻结时间的事实,使永久性是短暂的,是假的。您认为摄影是纪念片刻的有效方法吗?或者是一个高贵的傻瓜的差事,我们要应对我们的凡人无法抓住任何东西吗?

SOTH

I don’t think it’s terribly effective in that way, no. But I do think it’s effective in getting me out the door, in experiencing the world in a way that I wouldn’t without the excuse of photography. I’m always battling cynicism. I noticed this when I started giving lectures to students. I would talk about how there are too many pictures in the world and then realize, This student just exposed their first roll of film and processed it in the darkroom, and they’re super excited about it! Why am I shitting on their experience? So, I’m always trying to get back to that original joy, the joy an amateur has.

INTERVIEWER

你在谈论“初学者的思想”吗?

SOTH

Yes. The thing I want to communicate most in this book is that original enthusiasm. I’m trying to access it again and again.

INTERVIEWER

您还将照片与鲜花进行了比较,以便在制作这个项目时与玩世不恭的玩世不恭。

SOTH

It’s a funny thing. People never say, There are too many flowers in the world. Enough is enough! No, we just enjoy the bounty of flowers.

INTERVIEWER

That analogy between photographs and flowers strikes me as similar to Walt Whitman’s comparison of his pages to leaves of grass. Can you talk about Whitman’s influence on this work?

SOTH

我认为从一个像惠特曼一样的事实开始是很重要的。我不是GINSBERG,我没有像那些丰富的角色一样,但我确实发现挖掘那种能量很大帮助我的神经麻烦。每当我读惠特曼时,我都会更好地了解世界。这个项目在我思考亚伯拉罕·林肯和美国内战的思考中有其起源。惠特曼能够以如此美丽,开放的方式写下这一时期。坦率地说,我不可能这样做。我不能用那种精神拍摄特朗普的美国。这就是我在这项工作中陷入困境的地方。但我能做的是,挖掘庆祝自己的愿景,一个人自己的经验。

INTERVIEWER

In the book you write that attention might be the opposite of neuroticism. How so?

SOTH

We tend to use the wordneurotic在一个flippant way, but once I understood the word’s more clinical definition, I realized, Oh, that’s me. And I accept that, but it can spin out of control, and the way I’ve found to regain some sort of equilibrium is through directing my attention outward. For example, I’ve always felt like playing ping pong was a balm for my neuroses because all my attention was on the ball and the game. It offered me relief from my own brain. I feel that way when I’m photographing, when I’m in the experience of looking at something intensely. I mean, even people taking a picture of their food—for a brief second, they’re really paying attention.

INTERVIEWER

I always imagined that people’s need to photograph their food was actually a product of their neuroses.

SOTH

Well, maybe the whole photographic enterprise is born out of some neuroses, because we’re thinking about the fact that we'重新死去,我们觉得我们必须等待,就像这样的别针掉下来。但实际上制作照片的那一刻就可以了解一下。

INTERVIEWER

这个项目比你以前的工作更多,在你发现它和你自己和媒体上的时候,他们的注意力缩短了。促使此转变的是什么?

SOTH

I heard Philip Roth or some writer talk about how you reach a certain point where you become more influenced by your own work than the work of your influences. I still hold on to my early influences, but these days I’m mostly thinking about my relationship to photography. I think it’s just a natural progression that unfolds as you do something for a long time.

INTERVIEWER

A Pound of Pictures以其自我反光模式,几乎感觉就像某事给你的东西。什么是什么开始?

SOTH

It’s definitely backward-looking, but just because someone writes a memoir doesn’t mean their next project isn’t going to be short stories or something. Right now, the project is done, and I’m in the phase of talking about it. This is the moment in which I allow myself great experimental freedom. I have six months to a year to just try stuff. Now is when I become a beginner yet again.

A Pound of Picturesis currently on view at Sean Kelly in New York, Weinstein Hammons in Minneapolis, and Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco. The project’s accompanying book will be published this month by Mack Editions.

Gideon Jacobs是一位作家,贡献了纽约人,Artforum,纽约书籍,炸弹,花花公子,副,and others. He is currently working on a collection of short fiction.

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