What’s Up With Alec Soth

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Alec Soth wrote a seminal photography blog (here) then one day up and quit. And, I’m not talking “hey, I’m getting tired of this shit I think I’ll pull back a bit,” I’m talking Bermuda-triangle-sudden-radio-silence quit. I always figured the man’s got his reasons and we’ll leave it at that. But, after you’ve been on the sharp end of a blog for awhile the reasons present themselves and I started to develop theories about it. I decided to ask him “what’s up.”

Ok, so why did you quit blogging?

Well, first let me say why I started blogging in the first place. A couple years ago I had an itch to talk about creative issues. My son had just been born and I figured I wouldn’t be getting out much. More importantly, my career as a photographer was going really well but so much of my time was focused on the business side of things. While I was grateful to be making a living, I was becoming increasingly frustrated that all I talked about was prices, editions and so on. I took up the blog as a break from the business side of art. And it turned out to be a fantastic venue for that stuff. You know that feeling you have as a student where you are so hungry for knowledge and inspiration – that was the way I felt with the blog. It was great. Soon there was a sizable audience. This was flattering and cool, but it changed things. Rather than being my creative journal, the blog started feeling like a magazine. It started becoming another business. Every day I was getting dozens of emails from people showing me their work. I just couldn’t keep up. It also started affecting my real life relationships. One time I traveled to New York and was too busy to see a show by a friend of mine. The fact that I didn’t see her show and write about it on my blog, well, she hasn’t spoken to me since. It was ridiculous. As much as I loved the venue, I didn’t need the grief.

Your blog is still cited as one of the best on photography and you’ve not made a post in almost a year. Do you think any photographers will come around and usurp your title?

Of course. I’m sure it has already happened. The truth is that once I quit blogging, I also quit reading blogs. I needed to get out of the loop.

Most photographers have trouble with self promotion and so a blog probably looks like water torture. How did you deal with it?

I’m not a fan of using blogs for self-promotion. I’m as guilty as the next dork for having used my blog to talk about my new show, new book, whatever. But those were the weakest posts. You can smell self-promotion from a mile away. The good stuff would always come from genuine curiosity. If artists take up blogging just to promote their careers, their blogs won’t be worth much more than spam.

What are you up to these days?

I have two personal projects in the works. One will be ready this fall, the other in the fall of 2009. In 2010, the Walker Art Center is organizing a major traveling show & catalog. And I’m still doing plenty of editorial. I just finished a four part series for the Telegraph Magazine.

Any chance you’ll take up the blog again?

I have fantasies. I recently bought Larry Towell’s new book and was so thrilled with it. I really wish that I could go to town on it like I once did on my blog with a Tod Papageoge book. But if I go back, it will likely be on a different site. David Alan Harvey and I have been toying with the idea of functioning like columnists on the Magnum blog. Maybe I could manage being a columnist – but I’m pretty burned out on being the publisher.

There Are 19 Comments On This Article.

  1. matthew pace

    To Alec..

    A lot of us are interested in what you are doing along with getting your good thoughts, and don’t see your announcements as a self promo leaning on the commercial side. I found your blogs inspiring, coming from your art point of view.It showed me that Art can make it or lead to work that helps support it. As for the commercial side, lets face it, we all have to do that or how else could we afford to be doing what we do..

    Perhaps you could shrink your blog, don’t feel the responsibility of having to review works of admiring photographers who value your opinion, ( charge for that!!.grin) but keep the photography world informed of what you are doing and how you are seeing and thinking.
    They say a picture is worth a thousand words..but sometimes the thousand words that make up that picture is the REAL story..

    blog on

    matthew pace

  2. I was an avid reader of Alec’s blog, particularly on his posts discussing philosophy and inspiration behind his and other photographers’ work. The negative turning point on that blog was when comments became shouting matches. The idea of Alec returning to a blog is quite nice. Perhaps in the future, his own blog will return, sans commenting feature.

  3. since Alec don´t write his blog i usually return from time to time to see if he does it again.
    for me , the most interested thing was the posibility of listen a world respected photographer, his reflexions ,etc.
    sincerely, i miss your blog alec.
    all the best

  4. I read a lot of Alec’s blog just a week or so ago. After the discussion here about photographers needing blogs.

    There seems to have been a big change in Alec’s blog between when it started and when he quit. Looks like it grew out of control and into a full time job. It was interesting reading the comments on his blog. At first, people seemed like they were friends and a small group would comment and discuss. Later, there were just tons of comments rants, and raves.

    I wondered if it just became too much and Alec just looked at it and said enough. I wonder the same thing with David Alan Harvey’s blog. I went and read that blog for the first time a few months ago. WOW, the number of comments is mind blowing. I don’t know how he keeps up with it all.

  5. Alec, I’m about to take it from the top on your blog. I can already see that I’m in for a nice treat. Thanks.

    You’ll never read this will you?! :)

  6. i too was a regular reader and think those are lame excuses to have stopped. there are a million techniques to “get out of the loop”, shut down comments, change style, change subject, whatever..

    anyway, thumbs up on the pertinent interview – even if it is about self promotion :P

  7. I enjoyed Alec’s blog and would like to see him return in any incarnation. I feel like a year ago the photo blog world was a much different place. There was an air of excitement that I think has gone away since. I recall waking up every morning and reaching under the bed for the PowerBook, knowing full well that I could count on the east coast bloggers to have already posted something new and probably inflammatory. I also felt like there was more of a community back then. I wasn’t a commenter, but I knew that I could call any of my photographer friends and discuss the postings of the day without anyone having to fire up a computer. I really enjoyed that, but those days seem to be over. Perhaps the return of Alec Soth could trigger a photo blog renaissance. Who knows?

  8. I was also a fan of Alec Soth’s blog. Of course there are dozens of new and good blogs since that time, but regardless of frequency, Soth’s was reliable in terms of its tone and intelligence. Thanks again for sharing Alec!

  9. warmdriver

    From what I can tell here, Soth writes well. My guess is APE conducted this interview via email, and Soth was generous enough to invest some time and energy in to his responses. His effortless, conversational tone belies a bit more work than one might imagine. Therein lies the dilemma. Just because he (or anyone) writes well doesn’t mean there is an obligation to blog. Interestingly, if this actually is Soth’s coda, the interview (and a couple of the ensuing responses) serves as an excellent primer for those considering the pros and cons of diving in to this medium.

  10. I miss that blog too, I’ve met alec a couple times ( I grew up near him and we have friends in common I’m not that art world cool) He is such a nice guy and the blog was a wonderful place, with a great insiders view on the art world. One of my favorite parts of the blog was the great debates that would develop in the comments. I some times wonder if beside the time commitment, if the debates got a little to not minnesota nice for him.

  11. Sure blame the blog. Makes complete sense. If you don’t want to respond to emails don’t. If you don’t want to cover a friends show don’t and if they get pissed off to bad for them.

    If you’re not wanting to right anymore thats cool too but why pass blame?

  12. But it was quite an honour to have that blog there for a long time. I really enjoyed the strange posts that connected many diverse topics and made you think playfully about photography. The pace at DAH’s blog is too fast to keep track, true.