@1 year ago with 50 notes
#The Great Leap Sideways #Photography #Alec Soth #Joel Sternfeld #Documentary photography #Landscape photography
“In Gatlinburg, Tennessee, November 1980, the photograph that Soth credits as a motivating influence for his Sleeping By The Mississippi work, we see some of the central strands of his later endeavours. Tucked into the lowest edge of the foreground is the van that Sternfeld used as he travelled the breadth of the country making his work. It is outsize against the smattering of saloon cars that surround it in a relatively empty car park that seems small against the profusion of tall trees that flank the surrounding mountains. The typically squat three-story buildings that border the car park are mainly motels and hotels. They are bland, tepid, evidently unoccupied at this late phase of the off-season, somehow anachronistic and unromantic when counterpointed by the easy natural splendour of the autumnal colours that spread out all around them.
Elsewhere in American Prospects Sternfeld photographs the public and private delights of American leisure, but here he arrives at the underbelly, the hibernating small town in the dead of the off-season, and describes the bleak and lonely business of waiting for the spring. In this the picture opens up the vein in which much of Soth’s subsequent work has operated, examining the obverse face of America’s mythical figures: the Mississippi and dreams, Niagara Falls and romantic love, the Wilderness and the sensuous appeal of utter isolation. Gatlinburg, Tennessee prefigures a way into a photographic fascination with a society that has a deep historical habit of moving in and moving on so very swiftly, and with little thought for the circumstances of what is left behind. In a sense Sleeping By The Mississippi, Niagara, Last Days of W and Broken Manual also arrive in the off-season, and wander purposefully but inquisitively around the peripheries to unearth the beautiful and enigmatic complexities of what remains long after the sun has passed its peak. There are traces in the Gatlinburg picture, subsequently developed and sharply expanded by Soth, of the torrid relationship between romance and loneliness, of the interdependence between over-production and over-consumption, but also traces of an obsession with a singular goal (the photographer’s or his subject’s) and a willingness to refashion a life or a landscape in the pursuit of it.”
— from “Ballad of a Lonely Boy: the work of Alec Soth”