The Idea Of Escape

strtwrk'12, ©Dave Ortiz

I was watching an Alec Soth interview a while back and he said something that rang really true and applies to most real photographers. Soth said that he wanted his images to be known but that he did not want to be famous or recognized. I am wildly paraphrasing but that is the basic point. I can think of some photographers where this is painfully true, such as Robert Frank who wanted to absolve himself of The Americans and moved to Nova Scotia. I feel that way too (not that either my photographs or I are well known). I want desperately for my photos to be recognized by the art world but don’t particularly fancy becoming famous.

This little diatribe of mine reminds me of a film I saw at the Sean Kelly gallery last weekend called “Somewhere to Disappear” by Laure Flammarion and Arnaud Uyttenhove, and produced by Mas Films. The film follows the photographer Alec Soth as he travels to find subjects for his series, “Broken Manual”. According to Soth the series is all about the idea of escaping (he repeats this several times in the film). He fantasizes about buying a cave and build a house above it. He is smart enough to understand that you can’t physically live in a cave. But the cave represents the idea, the possibility of escape. Soth, intrigued by this idea, goes out to find people who have actually stepped out from society.  The press release for this exhibits says:

The majority of photographs that comprise this compelling series were taken over a four-year period, from 2006-2010. They reflect Soth’s increasing interest in the mounting anger and frustration that some—specifically male—Americans feel with societal constraints and their subsequent desire to remove themselves from civilization. 

It is an utterly absorbing short film and the stories told by some of the characters are heartbreaking at times. The way Soth is able to earn the trust and the way he interacts with these lives on the margins of society is extremely impressive and admirable. I can only strive to have half the courage and personality he exhibits in the film.

The exhibition, Broken Manual, and the film can be seen at the Sean Kelly gallery until March 11, 2012.


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