Alec Soth: Niagara
Essays by Philip Brookman and Richard Ford
Steidl, Göttingen, 2009 - reprint 2018
Primed appropriately with self-doubt and narrative wonder, it’s then time to enter Soth’s portrait of human love, dreams and illusion against the backdrop of the Falls. Soth levels his chunky 8×10 view camera on the expected wedding and honeymoon related hoopla, as well the less obvious-motel exteriors under hazy skies and nighttime lights; a single whiskey glass, mostly drained; an inexplicable and sad queue of tiny row houses. His most evocative work, though, comes in pairing portraits of Niagara couples – young lovers caught in a landscape of Lynchian noir or established couples nude, obese and comfortable across carpet and cheap sofa upholstery – with high-powered images of hand-scrawled notes expressing love, frustration, the allure of Gene Simmons. The ending, with an essay by Philip Brookman, and an arty sprawl of notes by Soth himself, feels heavy-handed at first, but in the end it’s an elegant marriage; there’s not a word of text in the book that doesn’t serve to amplify and engage an immersive and compelling documentary project.