If you dropped off a roll of black-and-white film at drugstore in the upper Midwest in 1996, there is a good chance it was printed by me. I spent that year (I was 26) and several others working at a large commercial photography lab. Most of my days were spent in the dark, printing pictures of seemingly happy Midwestern families. I was, of course, miserable.

After a day in the dark, I would head to the bar. More darkness, yes, but I was comforted by that boozy, underwater world and the solitude I found among strangers. In time, I started making pictures. Back at work, I would spend more and more of my day printing my own photographs. (I would tape the finished prints around my legs and sneak them out of the darkroom under my jeans in a slow robot-walk to my car.)

As these pictures accumulated, I started straying from the bar into the city itself. I even began skulking around in the sunshine. Still, the heart of this work was back in the darkroom. Alone for hours on end in the darkness, I would daydream about the adventures to come. One day, I imagined, a stranger would fall in love with me.

– Alec Soth

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