Sustainable Prospects – Week 9

In this blog post, I would like to set myself the task of answering the following question: how does one distance photography from nostalgia and allow it instead to manifest its pure meaning? In my previous blog posts, I repeatedly argued in various ways to the effect that most of the canons of art that we have cherished for many years are now being witnessed crumbling down. I have argued, for example (click here to read that post), that there is in essence no difference between photography and painting. Now, if we want to follow on that argument, we could surmise that, ultimately, should we persist in wanting to differentiate photography from painting, the only difference we could possibly latch on to in our arguments would be the one based on the technique utilised in those two visual art forms. Elsewhere I have argued that the Being, or that which is essential in, a photograph is what I termed “the photographic”. But then I went on to argue that “the photographic” is easily found to be equally present in painting (and, following the logic used in that argument, though not in any way discussed in any of my previous blog posts, I presume in all the other art forms too). Presenting photography side by side with painting was meant to encourage beholders of the visual arts to subversively thug the visual arts out of any discussions ‘by comparison’, which we have all erroneously believed for a very long time to be the only way to confer true value to a work, to be the only way to extract or tap into the essence of a work. By comparing photography with painting, we have seen that any arguments based on this insipid comparison are essentially cemetery paths, paths leading to academic limbo, since the insipid comparison itself is based on defunct premises. So, let us return to the task set for this post and once again ask: how does one distance photography from nostalgia and allow it instead to manifest its pure meaning?

Alec Soth, talking about his latest publication, “I Know How Furiously Your Heart Is Beating”, states:

“After the publication of my last book about social life in America, Songbook, and a retrospective of my four, large scale American projects, Gathered Leaves, I went through a long period of rethinking my creative process. For over a year I stopped traveling and photographing people. I barely took any pictures at all.

When I returned to photography, I wanted to strip the medium down to its primary elements. Rather than trying to make some sort of epic narrative about America, I wanted to simply spend time looking at other people and, hopefully, briefly glimpse their interior life.

In order to try and access these lives, I made all of the photographs in interior spaces. While these rooms often exist in far-flung places, it’s only to emphasize that these pictures aren’t about any place in particular. Whether a picture is made in Odessa or Minneapolis, my goal was the same: to simply spend time in the presence of another beating heart” (FRAENKEL GALLERY 2019).

Further to this, in a conversation with Vince Aletti about the same body of work, Soth states: “should I be promoting separation in my work? I would like to promote connection” (SOTH and ALETTI 2019).

We facilely believe that the photographic belongs to the photograph… but with little instruction we know we can come to see it in painting too… they talk about relationality in their work… but we only feel it if we are told…

No, we do not need to await being instructed or to await being told what the work is all about for us to know. We have to actively seek what we desire, and accept the fact that we change (and, in changing, accept the fact that the world need not change). Indeed, nothing needs to change, only our mindset.


FRAENKEL GALLERY. 2019. ‘ALEC SOTH I Know How Furiously Your Heart Is Beating’. Fraenkel Gallery [online]. Available at: [accessed 20 November 2019].

SOTH, Alec and Vince ALETTI. 2019. Alec Soth and Vince Aletti in conversation at Sean Kelly Gallery, April 4, 2019 [recording]. Available at: [accessed 20 November 2019].

Featured Image:

jaci XIII [License:]. Available at: [accessed on 22 November 2019; original image not modified].