Alec Soth’s fourth exhibition at the gallery presents new photographs made on road trips across the U.S. Recording people and locations with subtle connections, the series features images that reference photography itself, investigating the physicality of the medium and the photographer’s quest to preserve what is fleeting.
Soth began the series as a tribute to Abraham Lincoln and Walt Whitman, traveling the route of Lincoln’s funeral train “in an attempt to mourn the divisiveness in America,” he writes in the monograph that accompanies the series, published by MACK.
“While perusing eBay, I came across a seller in Pennsylvania with a collection of half-a-million photographs. After a full day at their dining room table, I only made it through forty thousand,” writes Soth about making this image.
Soth photographed Sophie Calle at her hotel while visiting San Francisco. “Sophie Calle doesn’t have a daily routine,” he writes. “Every day is different, except Sundays, which she spends in bed.”
Soth was initially inspired by Whitman’s elegy for Lincoln, When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d, but eventually found a more fitting approach in Songs of the Open Road, in which Whitman declares himself “loos’d of limits and imaginary lines.”
Flowers and references to butterflies, a favorite of Whitman’s, appear throughout the series. Soth photographed his intern Alejandro with a butterfly net purchased at the nearby Walt Whitman Birthplace Museum gift shop.
Above Nan Goldin’s bed hang two photographs by Peter Hujar, a close friend of Goldin’s.
In making photographs, Soth finds we share “this desire to memorialize life” as it rushes by.
This view of a Hollywood motel recalls Soth’s earlier project NIAGARA, which focused on the faded romance of Niagara Falls. “One of the things I was doing on this project was often seeing something that would evoke work I’ve made in the past,” says Soth.