Sleeping by the Mississippi has been ranked with the great representations of the United States, including Walker Evans’ pictures of the depression, Robert Frank’s harsh vision of the 1950s and, more recently, the colour work of Joel Sternfeld. As Alec Soth’s seminal work goes on show in London and is given a handsome reprint by MACK, we revisit an interview with him from back in 2004 – when the series first came out.
“I don’t start with intentions,” explains Elliott Erwitt. “I take pictures and then see what I’ve got and put something together.” It’s a process which has served him well throughout his career as a photographer. Born in Paris in 1928 to Russian parents, he spent his childhood in Milan, then emigrated to the US, via France, with his family in 1939; he first cut his teeth in the photography industry whilst still at high school, then built up a professional portfolio whilst serving with the Army Signal Corps in Europe. Joining Magnum Photos in 1953, he went on to apply his unmistakable style to everyone from Marilyn Monroe to Presidents of the United States. Now 89, he prefers to let his very varied collection of photographs speak for themselves, and his new collection, Cuba, is no exception. “I took a lot of pictures and sat down and made an edit. The way I always work,” says Erwitt. “[The book] seemed like a good idea since I was going to Cuba anyway
“I think politics affects every decision in daily life – it’s hard to remain on the sidelines,” says Musuk Nolte. “For me, photography is a visual element to work on these very complex issues. “With all the problems we have in our country, we have the responsibility to leave a visual document,” continues the photographer, who was born in Mexico in 1988 but is now a naturalised Peruvian.”I felt the desire to leave a document of what was going on, that it could serve as a visual and historical record. It was my way of relating to my country, but it’s important that this work also has an impact outside the community.”