Exhibition opening: 25.09.2015, 7 PM at Fotogalleriet
Artist talk and book signing: 24.09.2015, 7 PM at Oslo Fotokunstskole
Fotogalleriet is pleased to present the exhibition Songbook, which comprises selected photographs from Alec Soth’s recent project and photobook of the same title.
Songbook takes its starting point in a collaborative project between Alec Soth and his writer-friend Brad Zellar. Over a period of three years Soth and Zellar travelled together across seven states within the U.S., pretending to be small-town reporters for the self-published newspaper “LBM Dispatch”.
One of the references for the project is Robert D. Putnam’s book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of the American Community, which argues that Americans have become increasingly disconnected from community life and that America’s society is more and more characterized by individualism and social isolation. Soth and Zellar thus set out on looking for such (non-)existent community life, encountering and photographing people in various communal settings as well as lonesome individuals that at times can be regarded as being on the brink of society. During the course of the project, Soth started taking photographs that would subsequently be part of Songbook, but also include photographs from the LBM Dispatch.
Already in earlier projects like Broken Manual (2010) and Sleeping by the Mississippi (2004), Soth captured the lives of people living in seclusion and to an extent also the individual failures that make up such a large part of our societies. With Songbook, Soth has taken a more lyrical approach, setting the photographs against quotes from early 20th century jazz songs and publishing them as a photobook. Most of the chosen quotes are from lyrics featured in The Great American Songbook (the canon of the most influential American popular songs and jazz standards of the period), explaining Soth’s choice of title for his book and exhibition.
Although Songbook dates from the period between 2012 and 2014, the photographs convey a sense of time standing still, freezing a time long believed to have been lost. Reinforced by Soth’s choice of black-and-white photography, Songbook carries something melancholic or nostalgic, congruent with the individuals’ attempts to reach out to a community of the past. However, Soth also bequeaths us with something comical and at times grotesque, which leaves the viewer both a little amused and at the same time aware of the universal fate and fortunes of the human being.
Alec Soth (b. 1969) is a photographer born and based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His photographs have been featured in many solo and group exhibitions, including the 2004 Whitney and Sao Paulo Biennials. In 2015, Media Space in London is debuting a traveling survey exhibition of Soth’s work entitled Gathered Leaves. In 2008, a large survey of Soth’s work was exhibited at Jeu de Paume in Paris and Fotomuseum Winterthur in Switzerland. In 2010, the Walker Art Center produced a comprehensive exhibition of Soth’s work entitled From Here to There. His first monograph, Sleeping by the Mississippi (2004), and his numerous subsequent photobooks have received critical acclaim and book awards. Soth has been the recipient of multiple fellowships and awards, including the Guggenheim Fellowship (2013). His work is included in the permanent collections of distinguished museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
In 2008 Soth established the publishing house Little Brown Mushroom (LBM), working closely with photographers, writers and designers to find new ways of creating and distributing visual stories.