Lately, I’ve become somewhat obsessed with Magnum photographer Alec Soth’s YouTube talks. This past month, he posted a two-part series entitled “On filmmaking and photography.” Since I’m currently working on the next Binge-Worthy column, I was eager to gain his perspective.
As it turns out, Soth is trying his hand at filmmaking, which prompted reflection on the similarities and differences between motion pictures and still photography. In the first video, Soth looks at several photography books published by filmmakers and others in the industry (which, come to think of it, isn’t a bad idea for a companion series to Binge-Worthy). In the second, he delineates the differences between editing a film and editing a series of photographs via Helen Levitt’s classic book A Way of Seeing.
He also talks about how, as a filmmaker, he found himself in a situation where he needed to hire a casting director and a cinematographer, pointing out the cognitive dissonance of watching the action unfold on a monitor instead of through the camera’s viewfinder.
Soth is perhaps the embodiment of a photographer’s photographer, and he’s extremely open when it comes to giving insight into his process. Similarly, in his video talks, he focuses a great deal on the process of making photos and photobooks, rather than simply analyzing the end results. He tackles complex questions that many photographers wrestle with (I certainly do), and his experiences and insights, personal as they may be, tap into something universal.
So watch the YouTube videos! And stay tuned for the next Binge-Worthy entry, which focuses on a video project with a strong cult following made by one of the great chroniclers of the American South.