Posts Tagged ‘Alec Soth’
August 7, 2013 | by Sam Stephenson
For the past thirty years, the photographer Hiroshi Watanabe has split his time between Tokyo and Los Angeles. I met him at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park when he reported for his first day of work on the Bull City Summer project. He’s a compact man who moves carefully but fluidly; at age sixty-two, he resembles a boxing trainer or a retired gymnast. On meeting, he said to me, “I have a question—why did you invite me? I don’t follow baseball and I’ve never photographed it.” He already knew the answer—I think he wanted to find out if I did.
A few days later, during one of that week’s many rain delays, Hiroshi wandered into the dark, narrow room inside the left-field wall, behind the manually operated scoreboard on the thirty-foot Blue Monster. In this barnlike storage space, placard numerals are lifted and installed in the appropriate slots, facing outward into the stadium, to indicate runs, hits, and errors during games. Here’s how Hiroshi described what he found there:
I saw all these panels with numbers on them. I realized that the number zero had a certain translucent quality the other numbers didn’t have. The paint on the zero has been faded by more exposure to sunlight. This fading has made beautiful patterns—maplike, veinlike cracks. The passage of time offers different textures on different materials. In the scoreboard numbers, it’s just faded paint. Only zero shows the passing of time I’m looking for. Read More »
May 15, 2013 | by Adam Sobsey
In Ivan Weiss’s trailer for Bull City Summer, guest photographer Alec Soth says, “What I’m doing here isn’t about the game of baseball.” Soth isn’t the first project participant to say this (or words to that effect). The notion has been with us virtually since Bull City Summer was conceived, more than two years ago. It has since grown into an informal slogan.
It’s curious to say that a project about a baseball team, set in and around a baseball park, isn’t about baseball. But in fact, the diamond has long refracted our attention outward from itself: Walt Whitman compared baseball to America’s laws and Constitution; more recently, Michael Chabon wrote, in Summerland, “A baseball game is nothing but a great slow contraption for getting you to pay attention to the cadence of a summer day.”
The “summer day” part is a little too pastoral for me (the vast majority of games are at night, anyway), but Chabon is right that a ballgame, with its pauses and blank spaces built around what Whitman called the “snap” and “fling” of the game’s energy and action, encourages you to take in everything around it—everything that “isn’t about the game of baseball,” as Soth says. Chabon and Soth are getting at why we call baseball the national pastime instead of the national sport. Read More »
May 1, 2013 | by Adam Sobsey
I am at war with the obvious. —William Eggleston
Not long ago, I wrote about the formal and spiritual affinities between baseball and the genre of music called power pop. Both observe an “unwavering, repetitive adherence to form” while pushing hard against strict, self-imposed formal limits, thus “mak[ing] music out of a very precise, narrow, angular geometry.”
Then, on April 8, the day before the Durham Bulls’ inaugural home game of the season, Bull City Summer’s first guest photographer, Alec Soth, gave a talk at the North Carolina Museum of Art, where his show “Wanderlust” is currently on view. He began by showing a slide, not of his own work, but of Flowers for Lucia by the photographer William Eggleston. Eggleston “hangs over me,” Soth confessed, before showing a picture he made of Eggleston himself.
These disparate elements—power pop and Eggleston—came together for me just a few hours after Soth’s talk, when the documentary film, Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me, about the seminal power-pop band, closed Durham’s annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. (Eggleston appears in the documentary, so ravaged and slurred by years of hard living that the filmmakers resort to subtitling their interview with him in order to make him intelligible.) To make a nakedly baseball-centric comparison, you could say that Big Star was a can’t-miss major-league prospect that somehow missed: led by the late Alex Chilton, the band should have found international fame but barely got out of Memphis, the Triple-A city it called home. Read More »