Alec Soth - On Portraiture

Recorded remotely on 9th April 2020 during lockdown, Gem chats to renowned photographer Alec Soth, best known for his iconic work Sleeping by the Mississippi (2004). A series of 47 images of people and places which evolved from road trips along the Mississippi River. The project brings together Alec’s documentary style and poetic sensibility capturing the spirit of the community he encountered. 16 years on and he is one of the most celebrated image-makers of our time. He went on to publish over twenty-five books including NIAGARA (2006), Broken Manual (2010), Songbook (2015) and I Know How Furiously Your Heart is Beating (2019). He has had over fifty solo exhibitions including survey shows organized by Jeu de Paume in Paris (2008), the Walker Art Center in Minnesota (2010) and Media Space in London (2015). He also created Little Brown Mushroom, a multi-media enterprise focused on visual storytelling.


In this conversation, Alec shares his thoughts on his recent body of work I Know How Furiously Your Heart is Beating (2019), and how his approach to these photographs was a dramatic shift away from the narrative based work he is known for. He shares the motivations behind this work, how he worked and how he feels about it now. We discuss character; working with subjects and the complicated power dynamics at play in portraiture. We learn about his experience creating editorial work and how that sits within his wider practice. We talk about experimentation, the influence of language and why hotel rooms are such profound spaces in his creative process.


Follow Alec on Instagram @littlebrownmushroom on Instagram and visit to see his work. Alec is represented by Sean Kelly in New York, Weinstein Hammons Gallery in Minneapolis, Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco, Loock Galerie in Berlin, and is a member of Magnum Photos. Follow Gem @gemfletcher on Instagram and Twitter. If you've enjoyed this episode PLEASE leave us your feedback and maybe 5 stars if we're worthy in the Apple Podcast store. Thank you for listening to The Messy Truth, we will be back very soon. For all requests, please email

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