It’s tough for most photographers to capture my heart through words. After all, we publish a lot of interviews and we’ve heard many wonderful stories. Despite each one being unique, we continue to find something deeper and more evocative. For the latest Magnum Print Sale, Magnum Photographer Alec Soth shared some of the absolute most beautiful words to have vibrated and hummed their place into my heart. Little did I know that such wonderful poetry would arise from an otherwise simple image.
This time around, the theme for the Magnum Photos Square Print sale is “Then, Now, and Next.” So when I first looked at this photo, I felt the timelessness of NYC. I grew up here, and some things are everlasting while others acquiesce to time and trend (ie – gentrification). But Alec’s words describe a vital human feeling.
If you’re a NYer like I am, I think these words will hit you square in the heart.
Phoblographer: WhY did you choose this specific photo? When I look at it, I get so many different feelings of winter days working in offices and looking outside, admiring the city’s beauty. But I’m a native NYer. So why choose this photo? What made you want to shoot this photo? Like, literally, what was going through your mind? Can you share the emotions you felt?
Alec Soth: Having lived most of my life in the Midwest, I’m a connoisseur of the unpopulated landscape, so I never felt much desire to photograph on the streets of New York. I’m a fan of Winogrand and the like, but the energy of that type of photography doesn’t match my own experience. The only time I lived away from Minnesota was in college. My school was thirty minutes outside of New York, and I was utterly friendless for four straight years.
Most weekends, I’d go to the city and almost indulge in the feeling of alienation. I felt like a character in Hopper’s painting. Those experiences in New York had a profound effect on me, but I never addressed them directly in my work.
I’m known for lonely pictures in middle America, but I never knew how to get at this feeling in New York City. Then on one visit in 2018, I saw a view out of the window of my Airbnb that hit the melancholic chord of my memory. Watching a handful of lights come on during the drizzling blue hour evoked the romantic loneliness that is at the heart of my personal experience of the city. I photographed this view with an 8×10 view camera – the same type of camera with which I made my earlier work in the Midwest.
An important element of this picture is the inclusion of the dark edge of my window frame. This isn’t a picture of New York City, this is a picture of someone at a window looking at New York City.
The Magnum Square Print Sale
The Magnum Square Print Sale takes place on their website and ends on October 23rd, 2022. You can buy this image from Alec Soth and more. The Square Print Sale is a fantastic opportunity to get your hands on some wonderful Magnum Photos prints from photographers you love. In previous years, we’ve had an affiliate relationship tie in. But this year, we don’t, so we’re just profiling a few photographers we really like.