The images in your current show, Broken Manual, convey a sense of extreme distance between you and your subjects – much more so than your previous work. Will you tell us about this shift?


A portrait doesn’t necessarily reveal the soul of the sitter– the final picture is as much about the photographer (and the viewer) as it is about the subject. I’ve often said that when I make a portrait what I’m really photographing is the space between the sitter and myself.


In the case of Broken Manual, I really wanted to extend that space. The work is about distance and the longing for separation.


How do you make the decision to remove a subject or object from the context?


Every photograph of mine removes a subject or object from context– I’m not a big believer in documentary truth.


Everything happening outside of the frame is also lost: sound, smell, and most importantly time. If anything, photography is the art of stripping the world of its context. But of course, one does this to various degrees. With Broken Manual, I wanted to make something fragmentary and, well, broken. So I varied my approach from picture to picture.


How does removing these elements help to create the image that you see, regardless of the context surrounding it?


The idea of escape is a beautiful fantasy, but in reality it isn’t functional. We need other people, but it is still fun to fantasize. Last weekend my five-year-old son made a cardboard house– he was lone pirate in that house, but a few hours later he needed Mommy. Most of us aren’t much different.


Do you feel exposed when having a big opening of your work?


I’ve never been more nervous for a show than this one, and I’ve been trying to figure out why. I don’t think it is about my relationship with the subjects, it has to do with something more personal. I joke that Broken Manual is my midlife crisis project…but it isn’t such a joke.


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  1. Natasha Fatah

    February 15, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    That is an absolutely beautiful, and moody photograph. There is a dark ages quality to it, a bit of a fairy tale, a little religious too. Just magic.


  2. April

    February 15, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    Physically present in the web of trees….but one is still able to strip the world of its context in the mind.

  3. irene

    February 15, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    this pic!
    im impressed *_*

  4. LA Inspiration

    February 15, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    How inspiring.. great interview, and a beautiful photo.


    February 15, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    This is so classical, so lyrical, so artful.
    Bravo to Alec and great good luck with his upcoming show.

  6. Tinacious.Me

    February 15, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Amazing photography. Subject well chosen! Can’t wait to see more!

  7. Elena

    February 15, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    Amazing photography!

  8. Bohemian Style

    February 15, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    I really like the image and the title Broken Manual.

  9. Reptilia

    February 15, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    That’s really interesting!!!

    And this photos is just amazing!


  10. FashionUm

    February 15, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    This photo is a diamond…
    Show Your Outfit!

  11. William Makolle

    February 15, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    So mysterious!! Great photo!

  12. Luke

    February 15, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    Love Alec Soth’s work, so it’s a delight to see him up on the sartorialist.

  13. MAI.ALA

    February 15, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    Serenity. xx

  14. Anna

    February 15, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    wow, this picture is breathtaking!

  15. Marcel Da Chump

    February 15, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    I’ve seen his work on the blog entitled ffffound!

  16. Serdane

    February 15, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    That’s absolutely beautiful ! I’m touched by his sense and vision about his work !

  17. nyrha

    February 15, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    Photo is stunning!

  18. irene

    February 15, 2012 at 5:36 pm

  19. christian

    February 15, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    Many thanks for that ‘conversation’ with Alec!!!!!

  20. Natalie

    February 15, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    Very interesting…

    Check out my first post at photos to be updated…

  21. Stylosophism

    February 15, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    this pic gives a clear idea of space and how much is little the man

  22. Hitomi

    February 15, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    Love his idea of escape.
    Thank you so much for sharing this.

  23. monkeyshines

    February 15, 2012 at 7:33 pm



  24. fausto1968

    February 15, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    Harry Callahan, Eleanor.

  25. victor

    February 15, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    This is beautiful
    -Victor x

  26. bour3

    February 15, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    Interesting questions asked, and interesting answers. This brief snippet changes my attitude toward portraits.

  27. clara turbay

    February 15, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    Really awesome!

  28. Steph

    February 15, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    That was such an interesting interview, thank you for sharing it :)


  29. Aga's suitcase

    February 16, 2012 at 1:21 am

    Beautiful photo!

  30. une chatte grise

    February 16, 2012 at 1:57 am

    Beautiful & haunting photo. The comments about decontextualizing & space are truly interesting… I’ll be thinking about those for a while.

  31. Faye Marie

    February 16, 2012 at 4:09 am


    This photo is amazing ..I can only say what came to mind for…. (me)when looking at this…

    It took me to a spiritual place.. Maybe what it was like the moment Adam bit the infamous apple and the” Garden of Eden” turned from something of beauty to nothingness . Even though Eve was guilty with him …”Man” was created first and ruler over the garden and this is that moment of shame, humbleness and loneliness he felt..when God spoke..

    Adam the man standing among the trees with no leaves, the somber sky, just stillness….

    Thank you …for taking my mind on a spiritual journey…beautiful.

  32. Sergiu

    February 16, 2012 at 6:54 am

    Love Soth’s stuff. Real americana!

  33. koolphoto

    February 16, 2012 at 10:14 am

    Amazing photo and interesting ideas….I love it!

  34. proletarian Great Gatsby

    February 16, 2012 at 10:57 am

    I love this photo and the answers are interesting.I will follow his work.Thank you for sharing.

  35. MarĂ­a DdRS

    February 16, 2012 at 11:06 am

    Love Alec Soth’s photos since I saw one of his 5 years ago!

  36. quintessentialquality

    February 16, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Amaing pic

  37. Sue

    February 16, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Firstly, this show is amazing…check out all the pieces!
    Secondly, the context of the amazing show juxtaposed with fashion week in ny has my head in a tailspin…talk about contrast!
    It definitely makes you think…

  38. S. T. Daly

    February 16, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Saw these images (as well as some older works) over the holidays at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, NY. My impression was vacillating between serenity and slight uneasiness trying to leap the gulfs of space Soth so carefully left between subject and viewer; masterful works. He entices, yet then holds innate curiosity at arm’s length.

  39. Stephanie

    February 16, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Simply great….. and sensitiv!!!

  40. Nastya Said

    February 16, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    Oh this photo is a pure masterpiece!

  41. Bonnie McCarthy

    February 16, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    Wonderful, thought-provoking interview & stunning, strong images! Just beautiful!

  42. Sarah

    February 16, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    I love these conversations with art photographers, please keep them coming!

  43. Sigrid

    February 16, 2012 at 3:57 pm


    Thank you, thank you for making me aware of the work of Alec Soth!
    I’ve watched his photos on his website.

    Beautiful and breathtaking photographs!

  44. Sigrid

    February 16, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    His work is beautiful!

  45. Johnny

    February 16, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    Love this guy! Now I want to more about him…

  46. Ckate

    February 17, 2012 at 6:50 am

    Amazing!!! It provokes such deep feelings!!!

  47. Hero

    February 17, 2012 at 8:45 am

    “The idea of escape is a beautiful fantasy, but in reality it isn’t functional. We need other people, but it is still fun to fantasize. Last weekend my five-year-old son made a cardboard house– he was lone pirate in that house, but a few hours later he needed Mommy. Most of us aren’t much different.”

    I find this so beautiful and so true. It’s so lovely to get lost in the fantasy of being alone, being solitary, being completely independent: but in the end we all need someone, and I think that is ultimately a beautiful thing. I really think this picture captures the fantasy.

  48. Samuel Whiskers

    February 17, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    I’m pleasantly surprised to find Soth mentioned on The Sartorialist. But wouldn’t it have helped to provide an indication of what show you were talking about? I assume it’s this one:

  49. quigley

    February 19, 2012 at 8:29 am

    people read too much into things……………….

  50. olka

    February 21, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    love Alec Soth work! the exhibition, currently on view, is very interesting, go see it!

  51. leigh

    February 23, 2012 at 10:15 am

    been a huge fan of Alec’s since Niagara. I grew up not all that far from Niagara Falls and even in the early days of my photography career photographed an incredibly strange wedding for a friend’s distant cousin. thanks for profiling Alec here!

  52. Sarah

    February 23, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    Hurray….my guilty pleasure and my career have crossed paths!

  53. Kinsley

    February 23, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    Thanks for the interview. Alec is an incredibly talented photographer, capable of creating a complete body of work out of singularly haunting images. Personally, I agree with his comments about taking things out of context — as an amateur photographer, one of my favorite pursuits is building a new story for the people and things around me.

  54. Taipei Style

    February 26, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    It’s really a shocking picture, so quiet but so mysterious…

  55. Laura I.

    March 19, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    So beautiful!!!

  56. Emily

    June 14, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    Love the clarity of vision. “photography is the art of stripping the world of its context”. So true Alec Soth. Striking it again.

  57. tmz

    July 30, 2012 at 5:06 am

    Very cool. Like it.

  58. Stalkmystyle

    October 9, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    I love this photo.
    it gives me such a warm feeling and reminds me of being back home in the countryside.

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