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Charles, Vasa, Minnesota

Working in the tradition of American photographers of the early to mid-twentieth century such as Walker Evans, Alec Soth creates a visual record of America. Unlike Evans, however, Soth approaches his subjects with an almost voyeuristic intimacy. In his series Sleeping by the Mississippi, he depicts not only the people and places that make up life along the river but also the shift in culture as the river flows from north to south. Soth presents these photographs as a fragmented narrative, rambling images similar to the flow of dream imagery or the unconscious. He often addresses issues of race, sex, and religion, and his portraits express a wide range of feelings, from pride to loneliness and vulnerability. Here a man set against a bleak rural landscape presents his model airplanes to the viewer, as if explaining his project. With its implicit references to the aviator and American icon Charles Lindbergh (whose unassuming boyhood bed is shown in another photograph in the group) and to the idea of America (in the decoration on one of the planes), the image is both an intimate portrait and a link to the rest of the series.

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