At the Portrait Gallery, Alec Soth Likes Looking at Women | At the Smithsonian | Smithsonian
Current Issue
July / August 2014  magazine cover
Subscribe

Save 81% off the newsstand price!

At the Portrait Gallery, Alec Soth Likes Looking at Women

smithsonian.com
When I read that Alec Soth, one of the young art photographers who has a new show at the Portrait Gallery, specialized in portraits of women, I thought that meant willowy actresses in varying degrees of makeup. Or American Apparel-esque exposes of "everyday women." We live in a culture full of pictures of women—from the perennially glowing divas in women's magazines, to the disastrously drunk celebrities who grace tabloids. Many famous photographers claim they take these types of pictures to comment on our visual culture, but often enough these claims seem shallow. Soth doesn't photograph famous people. In a visual environment where everything seems to be a reflection of the viewer, his subjects are neither trainwrecks nor glamazons. His portraits aren't even pictures, not in the sense we've come to believe. They're stories, like Gordon Parks' shots of African-American families of the 1960s. I wasn't expecting them to be so human, or even so normal. I didn't expect to be interested in the characters, much less compelled by their narratives. But I was. It shouldn't be revolutionary to look at people with imagination and empathy, but for some reason it is. Is that a comment on our visual culture?
Tags
About Anika Gupta
Anika Gupta

Anika Gupta’s writing has appeared in India and the United States, including in Business Today magazine, where she serves as its first digital content editor, the Hindustan Times newspaper and Smithsonian magazine.

Read more from this author |

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus