Theory & Practice

Alec Soth’s Secret Farmhouse Project

A new short film sees the photographer discussing that happiest year of his life and the impact one ramshackle building had upon his photographic approach

Alec Soth

Alec Soth Image courtesy of Alec Soth © Alec Soth | Magnum Photos

In the midst of a period of turbulence in his career, spurred by growing doubts about the validity of his work and photographic processes, Alec Soth started a new project, one unlike any he had pursued before… 

His Farmhouse Project – as he refers to it – saw him setting out to recreate a childhood home of sorts, in a then vacant Minnesota farmhouse, far away from the eyes of family and colleagues. From difficult origins, when Soth found the building to be charged with negativity, his growing interest in meditation saw him find new meaning and new comfort in the space. 

The physical farmhouse was to become a space within which the photographer could reconnect with the freedom of an imagination unfettered by the constraints of professional life, and in which he could explore a growing meditative interest in the world around him – focusing in on the simpler things: the trajectory of shadows on a wall or the song of birds outside… In turn, this would lead him to change the way he made photographs. 

In a new short film, by cinematographer Brennan Vance, Soth explains the crucial impact of this seemingly unremarkable space on his life and work, his shift in outlook, and the period of discovery he describes as the “happiest year of his life”.  

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