The celebrated chronicler of contemporary American life on the epiphany that made him adopt a more intimate focus
n 2016, while on a working trip to Helsinki, the American photographer Alec Soth underwent what he calls “a full-on mystical experience” that precipitated a year-long sabbatical from work. “It was pretty far out, to the point where I find it embarrassing to talk about,” he says. When I press him, he recounts the story of sitting down by a lake to meditate, then having “this sudden realisation that everything in the universe was connected”.
He pauses to gather his thoughts. “I know it sounds hippy-dippy, but it was incredibly intense. I was tearful and simultaneously filled with this almost overwhelming sense of joy.”
He had just arrived in a foreign country after a long-haul flight – might it have been down to lack of sleep, jet-lag, the heat? “I guess so,” he says. “But whatever happened in that moment, the fresh air or the light or brain chemistry, allowed me to experience reality closer to what it actually is. The idea that the self was somehow separate seemed utterly absurd, an illusion.”
For the ensuing year, Soth, who lives in Minneapolis, says he did “almost nothing”, which, given his previously prodigious work rate – editorial commissions, travelling workshops and talks as well as producing books and exhibitions – must have been quite a gear shift.
“Not really,” he says. “That’s what was so liberating. For a while, I was making small creative gestures for myself. It felt like I was learning anew how to engage with work, with my life. During that time I couldn’t have cared less about an audience. I remember thinking: I’ve been happy before and I know how to be happy, and it is not to do with chasing after creative expression.”
And yet here he is, with a new book about to be published and a promotional campaign lined up. “I know, I know,” he laughs. “I’ve come to an acceptance of both. But I am certainly less ambitious and less manipulative than I was, and I think that is evident in a good way in the new work.”
Susanne’s view, London.
Read the full story HERE >>>> Source: The Guardian Alec Soth, a photographer reborn: ‘I realised everything is connected’