Alec Soth shoots City Pages cover for Artists of the Year

For answers to how that came about, I had to turn to City Pages Art Director Mike Kooiman.

Alec Soth
This alternative take is reminscent of Bob Dylan's video for "Subteranean Homesick Blues."
How did you end up commissioning Soth to do this week's City Pages cover?

Traditionally, the cover of Artists of the Year features a work from a painter, or similar kind of visual artist. This year we weren't featuring any of those, so when we looked down the list, we sought an alternate visual solution. Alec Soth is famous for a certain style of portraiture, so we thought he might be perfect for capturing the eccentricities of the work of someone like Emily Johnson (whose concepts and choreography reach beyond traditional boundaries). Luckily, both artists were on-hand and excited to participate.

What was the process like in terms of working with Soth to get the right image?

The process was pretty hands-off, aside from facilitating communication between photographer and subject. Alec preferred to talk with Emily personally in order to come up with a setting that suited
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Alec Soth
Another alternative cover image--this one a bit ... weirder?
both his own style and her work. The photo shoot was surprisingly varied, and many different kinds of shots from different environments were submitted. It's a challenge to choose the best shot for a cover like this. One one hand, our publication like all others has to sing from the stands. On the other, we want to be true to the style and spirit of the creators.

Did they expense the fish?

I have not received any expense reports or receipts from the fishmonger.
But one question still remained: Why? The only one who could answer was Soth himself.

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Alec Soth
This variant was Mike Kooiman's second choice and came close to being the cover.
An artist of your stature doesn't ordinarily take time out to shoot the cover for a local alt weekly. What attracted you to this assignment?

The first freelance I ever did was for City Pages. It was a story about a dying mall. I remember being so incredibly proud to have my picture published. So I guess some of that has stayed with me. And I've always been a fan of the Artist of the Year issue. It is something I look forward to seeing each year. And lastly, I was thrilled to photograph a young, energetic talent like Emily Johnson.

What was the photo shoot like? It seems a bit chilly, and working with that fish couldn't have been easy.

I'm such a sucker for fresh snow. Given the opportunity, I'll always use it. I ended up shooting right outside of Emily's apartment. That way we could go and fetch her various props. Emily showed me this incredible fish skin she was sewing to make a lantern. It was so beautiful. But in the picture it just looked like a shirt. So we fetched some fresh fish from Coastal Seafood and I went a little crazy. In my head, the artist of the year might be the fish. Or maybe the whole thing was just a dream.

As for the fish: After its star turn on the cover of City Pages, it was eaten for dinner.


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