Alec Soth is a skilled photographer with a great eye for finding subjects. He looks at things from a different perspective and finds inspiration in the most unusual places.
In this TED Talk, he along with friend and fellow photographer Stacey Baker (she’s also a photo editor at The New York Times Magazine) describe one of their photo projects that touch the topic of dating, meeting new people, and falling in love. Soth was intrigued with the idea of vulnerability — how people let others see them especially when it comes to having their photos taken.
Alec took photographs of Stacey and her “dates” during a speed dating event in Las Vegas to see how this dynamic takes place. Long story short, Stacey went through 19 dates in a night. She didn’t fall in love but Alec got the photos he wanted.
The duo then moved to a retirement community also in Las Vegas to take portraits of old married couples. There were stories of love, romance, hardship, and so on. It wasn’t just about how they met but rather more on how they stayed together.
The two subjects came from extreme ends. From speed dating to asking how elder couples stayed together — they’re just the exact opposites of each other. One of the biggest takeaways from the project is the beauty of making a life together. Through rough patches, old age, and so on. Soth ended the talk by sharing his favorite part of the project wherein a married couple took out the same photo from their wedding day. Although wrinkled and faded, the identical photos show a beautiful moment in the beginning of their relationship.
“What’s more beautiful? I thought to myself. This image of a young couple who’s just fallen in love? Or the idea of these two people holding on to this image for decades?”
This is one of the strengths of photography projects that we should be aware of. They can sound or feel trivial but with the proper approach, they can mean so much more to others. Alec saw the opportunity to share the beautiful stories of these couples with the simple act of taking their portraits. Imagine if you could do the same in your projects. Wouldn’t that be nice, too?