Rural Minnesota images by a fashion photographer on display at Park Rapids

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What they hadn’t really seen, until now, are reflections of themselves.

That changed at the end of July with the opening of “Alec Soth: Paris / Minnesota”.

The show is a collection of images taken in rural northern Minnesota by the internationally renowned photographer, intended to fill his ideal fashion magazine.

“It’s really exciting to see these people having these personal reactions,” said Tessa Beck, director of Nemeth.

"FL, 2007," by Alec Soth.  Photo courtesy of the Nemeth Art Center / Special at the Forum

“FL, 2007” by Alec Soth. Photo courtesy of the Nemeth Art Center / Special at the Forum

This is the first time the corpus, many of which are printed large at 40 x 50 inches, has been shown in a single space, she says, although many of the images have become business cards for the Twin-based photographer. Cities.

Soth was nervous about exhibiting the work in the areas where it was filmed, unsure of how the locals would react, Beck says. He didn’t need to be.

“People were excited,” she says. “I have heard incredible stories.

At the exhibition opening in late August, a man who once owned a gas station that Soth had photographed showed up with a copy of W magazine that featured the image. The photo, referred to simply as “Akeley, Minnesota, 2007” shows the mock facades of a pioneer small town the owner erected on the property as a tourist attraction – a pre-Instagram selfie site .

There are cart wheels against the wood-fronted shops, a hotel, a church and a mortuary with a coffin propped up in front, all glowing against the snow on the ground and birch trees lit against the night sky. It’s colorful, but austere, inviting and strange at the same time.

"Akeley, Minnesota, 2007," by Alec Soth.  Photo courtesy of the Nemeth Art Center / Special at the Forum

“Akeley, Minnesota, 2007”, by Alec Soth. Photo courtesy of the Nemeth Art Center / Special at the Forum

The former owner of the site, which has since been deleted, and his family enjoyed chatting with the artist, Beck says.

While the Minnesota portion may be on display, the Parisian portion of the project is only visible in a gallery copy of W magazine and mentioned in Soth’s statement.

He remembers, at the suggestion of his artistic director, his attempt to shoot a Dior fashion show.

“I had never been to a fashion show before and I didn’t understand the politics behind the scenes. In less than an hour, I was kicked out by security, ”he wrote. “The more I worked in Paris, the more I became aware of my identity as a lifelong Minnesotan. Rather than being ashamed of it, I wanted to integrate it into the project. Fashion is simply the way we present ourselves to the world. To me, the clothing choices of someone in Duluth are as worthy of investigation as those of someone in Paris. I would take it a step further and say that’s how I feel about culture in general.

Soth was traveling to Europe when this story was written and was not available for comment.

"Kristin, St. Paul, Minnesota, 2007," by Alec Soth.  Photo courtesy of the Nemeth Art Center / Special at the Forum

“Kristin, St. Paul, Minnesota, 2007”, by Alec Soth. Photo courtesy of the Nemeth Art Center / Special at the Forum

One of her images, “FL, 2007”, a portrait of a young woman with one of her red braids emerging from a pink Burton beanie and flowing over the collar of a pink winter jacket, is became one of his iconic photos. Much like “Kristin, St. Paul, Minnesota, 2007”, showing a young figure skater standing in her skates in a slush covered parking lot.

Many photos were taken in winter or early spring, including “Eelpout Festival, 2007” of a man and woman in lone Carhartt overalls ice fishing in front of a camper van adorned with photos of women naked.

Soth placed his large format camera far enough back to get a wider shot, focusing as much on the scene and its surroundings as on the people.

“Alec doesn’t pity or glorify the people or the scenery,” Beck says.

His detachment is a signature of his work as he has said that his own awkwardness helps to melt the barriers between him and his subject.

This distance also leaves questions for viewers who may want to know more about topics, like the young woman in “Marie, Park Rapids, Minnesota, 2007”. She stands on a checkered floor, barefoot, wearing a green dress and a plastic collar around her neck, with what looks like cake spread across part of her face. She looks awkward off camera like she’s waiting for someone to join her. Is it a school dance? It is his birthday ? Is it a marriage?

Beck asked the locals if they recognize her and she is actively trying to piece together her story.

"Stéphane, 2007," by Alec Soth.  Photo courtesy of the Nemeth Art Center / Special at the Forum

“Stephen, 2007” by Alec Soth. Photo courtesy of the Nemeth Art Center / Special at the Forum

Another subject’s story came to light by chance. A retired teacher from Nevis visiting the area stopped to see the Nemeth and was surprised to see some of his former students, including a young man, Stephen.

The photo, “Stephen, 2007,” shows him in a dark suit, his hands on his knees, sitting in a banquet chair against a pine-paneled wall.

“This is one of my favorite portrait examples,” says Beck. “This image, there is such a sensitivity in the way Stephen is portrayed. It’s delicate, almost bird-like, and that contrasts with the high fashion of a Ralph Lauren suit.

“She was so excited and didn’t even know these photos existed,” Beck says of the teacher’s reaction. “She said Alec captured him perfectly.”

If you are going to

  • What: “Alec Soth: Paris / Minnesota”
  • When: Exhibition until Saturday October 2
  • Or: Nemeth Art Center, Park Rapids, Minnesota.
  • Info: This show is free and open to the public. Visit www.nemethartcenter.org for more information.


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