American photographer Alec Soth with the film Gathered Leaves in the Munich Art Gallery

American photographer Alec Soth belongs to the premier international association of documentary photography. His paintings are currently on display as part of the “Collected Papers” exhibition at the Kunstfoyer in Munich. − Photo: Alec South

Alec South is mostly on the road in his native America. Sometimes in your motorhome, sometimes in a Greyhound, alone or with a friend. But a heavy camera with a big screen is always with you. That’s why the catalog cover of his retrospective exhibition in the Art Lobby looks like a map with pins of individual stations. A poem by American poet Walt Whitman, written shortly before the American Civil War in the mid-19th century, gave the compelling presentation the poetic title of Collected Papers. All the pictures in the spacious exhibition room are reminiscent of the collected papers of a huge picture book one passes through, as they reflect a piece of social and political reality.

His career began in the original state of Mississippi in South

It all began in 2004 on the Mississippi River, not far from the city of Minneapolis, where Soth was born and still lives. Unlike Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, who followed their dream in a boat on a huge river, the photographer took a path along the bank – capturing people and landscapes in his black and white color photographs with a gentle gaze. The first project “Sleeping by the Mississippi” immediately propelled the photographer into the premier international league of documentary photography with exhibitions around the world, which was not only accepted into a select circle of “magnum photographers”, but was also part of a traditional series group with the greats of Metiers Such as William Eggleston, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Stephen Shore or Joel Sternfeld. Since then, Soth has traveled to the United States to photograph or photograph social and physical landscapes while traveling.

The fact that Alec Shore (born in 1969) is a versatile artist is shown not only by nearly 100 original recordings from five series over the past two decades; He also edits a lot of photo books himself, passes on his skills and knowledge in blogs and works in live workshops as a teacher with young photographers.

The primary issue is the people in their social environment; He finds them in suburban areas, by roadsides, in rickety motels, abandoned hospital beds, and painfully tasteless living rooms, beyond charm and fortune. They are left behind, like the pregnant woman with her bags full of rubbish or the woman tying flowers for sale next to a pile of shoes on the highway. Frustrating case studies of a shattered American dream, outcasts and strangers withdrawn to nowhere like hermits, like the naked young man in a water-lily pond, the woodsman hiding among the boughs or the hermit with his model plane. But there are also dreamers, mostly minor couples looking melancholy on camera, a black woman waiting alone in a club for male clients, a stifling chaplain’s wife holding the image of an angel like a treasure, and a girl in a princess dress, all of whom have a powerful narrative power unfolding between reality and fantasy.

Dreamers and desolate desert landscapes

In addition to these social landscapes, the photographer is also interested in natural landscapes, along with the arid desert regions of Mississippi and Niagara Falls, which are also famous for honeymoons and suicides. With them, Alec Soth opens up a history of America, created on road trips away from tourist resorts.

Barbara RitterUntil July 24, Versicherungskammer Kulturstiftung, Maximilianstr. 53 in Munich, free entry, opening hours: daily from 9:30 am to 6.45 pm.

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