Alec Soth | Photographer

Alec Soth | Photographer


(birds chirping) (peaceful music) – I mean, I must have been in
maybe like ninth or 10th grade and my mom, you know,
concerned about my future, was having this conversation, what do you want to
do with your life? (peaceful music) And I just remember saying that the goal was
not to be happy. (Alec chuckles) I wanted to be an artist and
I wanted to make something that would live on. (peaceful music) That idea, it’s been
with me for decades. I sort of saw it
recently, it’s like, wow that is so presumptuous, that you can do something that’s gonna like
stand the test of time. (peaceful music) I had that first
wave of recognition and sort of was on a ego
high from that whole thing and survived the
sophomore project. (peaceful music) And then went through a
really turbulent time, realizing what all that
notoriety was built upon and how it’s maybe
not really real. (peaceful music) And there was a big part
of me that was wondering like am I gonna leave behind
you know being an artist. (peaceful music) That was kind of what led me
to this farmhouse project. This farmhouse it was a secret. Like my wife knew
that I bought it and my studio manager knew,
but they didn’t go out there and I actually asked them
not to talk about it. (door banging) I basically wanted
my childhood home, but it didn’t exist any more
and also I couldn’t afford it. So I bought the cheapest
thing that I could find that would somehow bring
to mind that place. This place was, it was
about boyhood for me. (footsteps shuffling) And so I originally
bought the farmhouse as a place where I could
learn how to get back to playing in that like
childlike way of, playing by myself and
having pretend friends and living in my
own imagination. (broom scraping) I was working at the
farmhouse very sporadically for about a year. But I just, I wasn’t feelin’ it. The fact that it was
spooky and haunted looking. I didn’t have heat,
I didn’t have water and all of that
contributed to me not being comfortable there. It’s also the kind of place
that begs for teenagers to break into. You know I never
saw these people, but I can imagine what’s
going through their minds, when they break into this place. Like we know your secret. We know you’re this serial
killer, living here. The whole place was kind
of charged with negativity. I thought, okay well that’s the end
of this farmhouse project. (peaceful music) The thing that shifted
everything was meditation. (peaceful music) Meditation became more and
more prominent in my life. Then I started going
out there all the time. (peaceful music) It was really different. The creepiness was
taken away, but in part because I would often
go with other people. (peaceful music) I really did have a like
clarity of thinking. Like if you can just
stop talking to yourself and you’re like wow, there
are birds chirping right now. Like how did I not hear
this, this whole time? (peaceful music) My big thing when I went
out there was to not have too much ambition
to make anything. Like it’s okay if I
just go for a walk. (peaceful music) The drive out there, that
could be the artwork. (peaceful music) One of the things I would
do is I would watch the sun move through the room and
different shapes on the walls. And I would try to frame
it with masking tape. So I would like trace the shadow and then watch as it moves
and then keep retaping. I just thought kind of
everything is worthwhile. (dog panting) One of the things that
meditation did for me, it made me realize like how
much of life is just this talking inside my head. You know over and over again. Meditation sort of made
me less egotistical. And so I saw through a
lot of that stuff of like, I’m gonna make something great and it’s gonna change the world. Photography, I often compare
it to like being a hunter. My photographic practice is
like going out in the world, you know hunting and then
like I’d take down this beast. I drive away and I’m
sort of satisfied with the thrill of the hunt. In this new state of
mind, I wanted to work at engaging with people in
a more sort of human way. And in a less sort of
predatory sort of way. (guitar strings twang) After I sort of woke up to
this new way of how to live, I realized I needed to
like clue everyone else in on this situation. (guitar strings twang) I had this meeting with my
very powerful New York gallery and told them I’m thinking
about everything in a new way. My work’s really gonna change. I remember like talking
to my parents even and saying like sit down. (Alec chuckles) And coming out of the closet
as like a happy person. (crickets chirping) And really it is like the
happiest year of my life. It was doubly weird because
this is the era of Trump and it was like
everyone’s super unhappy, the world’s going to hell
and I was just on cloud nine. And really thought that I’d
kinda figured out how to live. (water babbling) There was sort of a moment, like it occurred
to me, this year, I was like in a monastery. And I wasn’t exactly
engaging with the real world of fiscal responsibility
and stuff. And like my bank account
is going down and down. There was this kinda crossroads and that’s where I did have
this conversation with my wife, saying like we’re gonna
have to really think about living in a different way,
without a lots of overhead and all that stuff. Or I’m gonna have to go back to grown up work. (crickets chirping) (birds chirping) And it’s something
that really bother, I mean this bothers me. Because I really feel like
I sort of made a decision to be less happy. That’s not a thing
I’m so proud of. (water babbling) I think every artist
knows this feeling. My work, it’s the
thing I’m good at, based on all these decades
of devoting myself to it. So to give that up, it’s
big thing to give up. (crickets chirping) And it’s funny because
actually the work that I’m making right now, it does have a lightness to it. Like people commented
on this already, it’s like there’s
something different. You know that’s good, it’s like it’s evening out
in some other sorta way. (peaceful music)

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