The Boston Globe

Snapshots of Bogota from an unusual angle

Sept 28--As an outsider, Soth observes hardness, beauty

28 de septiembre de 2009

A revolver sits on a desk. Its presence there takes a moment to register, since the room has such a high ceiling and the wall behind the desk (which dominates the photograph you’re looking at) is bare but for a clock and a small image of a saint.
Something strange is going on here - revolver? saint? - the strangest thing of all being that the juxtaposition seems almost normal. This is the most remarkable aspect of “Dog Days Bogotá by Alec Soth,’’ the exhibition of which the photograph is a part. Soth manages to make the Colombian city seem so familiar in its strangeness, and vice versa.

The show runs at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design’s Stephen D. Paine Gallery through Nov. 28.

Soth, a member of the photo agency Magnum, went to Bogotá with his wife in 2003 to adopt a baby girl, Carmen. Her birth mother gave them a scrapbook. “I hope that the hardness of the world will not hurt your sensitivity,’’ she wrote. “When I think about you I hope that your life is full of beautiful things.’’

Those words became “a mission statement,’’ Soth writes. “I began making my own book for Carmen. In photographing the city of her birth, I hope I’ve described some of the beauty in this hard place.’’

There is indeed a balance of hardness and beauty in these 32 good-sized color photographs (they’re either 15 inches square or 20 inches square). Maybe that balance could even be written as an equation: hardness + beauty = matter-of-fact oddity.
Read more here.
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