The United States of fear: Alec Soth photographs the death of community in America

I wasn't trying to use Winogrand as a lens through which to view Soth; forgive me if I came across that way. I was more just qualifying my basic opinion on the nature of photography and photographs, for which Winogrand serves as a chief reference point.

As a more fair frame of reference for how I came to Soth, and why I like him: while working on his LBM Dispatch project, he came to Watertown, NY (where he took the foam party picture featured in OP's link), which is a very poor upstate town that is essentially entirely propped up by Fort Drum, one of the four or five largest military bases in the country. It's an awful, cynical place, made so mostly by the fact that lots of young, generally good people are transplanted here from their homes without any real contacts, relationships or support systems in order to fulfill military obligations. Imagine a college town where "school spirit" and easy access to mutually interested people was replaced by military cynicism and isolation. That's Watertown. (Also, the widespread poverty and sudden, overnight, 8-foot snowstorms probably don't help.)

I'm from Watertown, and Soth was the first person who's ever come through here who took pictures of a place I recognize (and for some bizarre reason, lots of famous photographers, including Lee Friedlander, have come through Watertown.) It's a city burdened by massive socioeconomic constraints full of people who don't really have any place to go (and no reasons or means to try to get out anyway). It's tired looking soldiers grinding on tired looking girls wearing five year old jeans at the world's saddest foam party. He was able to get Watertown right, and in his other work of other places I can see him (for lack of a less intangible way to phrase this) "getting it right" there as well.

This has really endeared me to him from a journalistic standpoint. From an artistic standpoint, I like black and white photography, and I like pictures of people, and he's quite good at showing me people that are slightly off and feel very "of a place." He reminds me a lot of Diane Arbus in this way. Whether or not I "get" him, I dunno. I like his work though.

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