Alec Soth shoots City Pages cover for Artists of the Year

City Pages
This week's cover image was shot by world renowned artist Alec Soth.
It's not every day that a fine artist of Alec Soth's caliber deems fit to grace the cover of a local alternative weekly. But that's just what happened with this week's City Pages.

For the cover of our annual Artists of the Year issue, Soth--himself one of the honorees--agreed to shoot Emily Johnson, a choreographer whose arresting dance is featured on the Northrup stage.

How did this happen? And who decided to bring the fish?

AlecSothcover (Medium).JPG
Nick Vlcek
The Jan. 23, 2008 cover featured Soth's work.
Back in January 2008, City Pages featured one of Soth's photos on the cover to illustrate a profile of Alec Soth written by Jeff Severns Guntzel. The story chronicled Soth's unlikely ascension from shy Chanhassen kid to overnight star of the New York photography world.

From all those miles up and down the river emerged a collection of photographs called "Sleeping by the Mississippi." The work won him his first major award: the 2003 Santa FeWhitney Museum in New York City were flying in to meet Soth. "I think they took pity on me," Soth says, only half-joking. By 2004, prints from his Mississippi project were hanging at the Whitney Biennial in New York City.

"As custom dictates," New York Times art critic Michael Kimmelman wrote in his review of the exhibit, there were "a few good discoveries (Alec Soth, a photographer)."

The tossed-off reference was enough to turn Soth into an overnight star. "It was just those four words, and it hasn't stopped since," says [Martin] Weinstein, who now represents Soth.

Since then, Soth's prints have hung in prestigious galleries and museums all over the world: Paris, Berlin, Beijing, and Sao Paulo. He's taken assignments from Esquire, W, Newsweek, GQ, and the New York Times. These days his large prints sell for as much as $20,000.

Alec Soth
One of the Alec Soth photographs that graced the January 2008 profile in City Pages.
Alec Soth
This alternate cover submitted by Alec Soth was a more traditional take.
This year, Soth was selected as one of our annual Artists of the Year--the creative figures both local and national who made our lives just a little bit more interesting in 2010. As Marlon James (winner of the 2010 Minnesota Book Award for "The Book of Night Women") writes of Soth's particular artistic genius:

The thing about photographers, particularly brilliant ones like Alec Soth, is that they have a gift for capturing people in the increasingly rare act of being people. I'm not sure how he does it, especially in this age in which reality itself is up for grabs and everybody is a performer. Maybe he starts shooting at the point where most photographers stop. There is a casual intelligence here, the honesty of outtakes even though there was probably nothing casual in the process of taking them.
But even as we were preparing that text, we had no idea Soth would end up shooting the cover of the issue itself.

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