Alec Soth in an American photographer who was born in 1969 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. Hi is still based in Minneapolis and is most well-known for his large scale American projects. His work has been said to have a cinematic feel and Hilarie M. Sheets from the New York Times has said that “he has made a photographic career out of finding chemistry with strangers.” She made this statement because much of Soth’s work is portraits of Americans and it would appear that they are so successful because of the bong that he creates with is subject. Soth has has a lot of success throughout his career, including being the 2003 recipient of the Santa Fe Prize for Photography, having major public and private exhibitions like at the San Francisco Museum of Arts, the Museum of Fine Art Houston, Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Walker Art Center. He also had a huge exhibition at the Media Space in London in 2015 and has had his books published by major publishers not to mention his own company, ‘Little Brown Mushroom’. Some of his most renowned publications are ‘Sleeping Mississippi’, ‘Niagara’, ‘Songbook’ and ‘Broken Manual’.
‘Broken Manual’ was published by Göttingen Stiedl in 2010 and took around four years to put together. In this book Soth investigates the places in which people retreat to escape society. He photographs monks, survivalists, hermits and runaways. Despite the concept this book is different to any other book that documents life of the grid, with the help of Lester B. Morrison, he created an underground instruction manual for those looking to escape their lives. On his web page, ‘Little Brown Mushroom’ he writes, “It is common for artists to follow up the publication of their books with ‘Special Editions,’ but in the case of Broken Manual, this edition is being presented first. Made in an edition of 300, Soth calls this the ‘Ideal Edition’ of Broken Manual. Each copy of the book is housed inside of another, one-of-a-kind book. These signed and numbered ‘shell’ books are unique and cut by hand. Inside the shell, there is also a small booklet entitled ‘Liberation Billfold Manifest’ and an 8×10” print signed and numbered by Alec Soth and Lester B. Morrison.”
The publication is full of striking images of these recluses and the places in which they have habituated, but it is the form of a book within a book that interests me the most. The connection between the two books intrigues me and makes me ask why and how he chose the particular books to inhabit the ‘Broken Manual’. I like the connection between the ‘Shell Book’ and the ‘Broken Manual’. The story within the story makes me question why it has to be hidden, and is it being hidden or is it being protected? What is the relevance of the shell book? I want to create my own connection between previously published books and my own images. I want to use old books and give them a new meaning and a new life, in a similar way to that of Soth.