So impressed was I by my Friday night visit to the Science Museum that I headed back over to South Kensington the following day to catch another exhibition that is finishing soon, Gathered Leaves by American photographer, Alec Soth.
Again, this is another beautifully curated exhibition – poles apart from the Cosmonauts I had seen the day before – but no less impressive. The photographs are grouped by room chronicling the everyday in different locations across the United States.
Although each room is different, starting with a series of photos depicting the Minnesota Soth found when he clicked his lens into position, there is a common vulnerability threading each photo to the next. Many pictures feature the subject appear relatively small against a vast desolate backdrop – a mother holding her baby close while standing in a grotty car park; a man almost obscured by the dense woodland surrounding him; numerous scenes marvelling the enormous reach of Winter.
Soth captures so much in his photographs: hopelessness; resignation transitioning to grit, and the determination to keep on keeping on. My favourite room was Broken Manual where, inspired by Lester B Morrison’s guide to disappearing without a trace, Soth sought out the hermits of North America – those who wished to retreat from all forms of communal living in favour of lives of solitude. It was fascinating and the photographs really intrigued me and triggered daydreams of the lives the men were so desperate to leave behind.
In time for Valentine’s Day there was also a room all about L-O-V-E. Love letters of women scorned – a particular howler addressed to a man named David stands out where his lover signs off with the razor sharp yet non-commital ‘Take care and drop dead‘ to an excerpt from page 2 of a very ordinary yet deeply poignant love note from someone who just wants their dearest to come home.
These are the kind of photographs of people I would like to be able to take. If you’re a documentary filmmaker or photographer and you’re passing through London anytime soon I’d urge you to pop into the Science Museum and get lost in the lives of others for a bit at this exhibition. This is fast becoming my favourite London haunt. Five stars. Click here for tickets but be quick: Gathering Leaves closes on 28th March.
Until next time,