Alec Soth’s series, “Broken Manual”, is about the lifestyle of people who pressed off in a direction not often taken by most of society. A look at what it’s like to be alone, truly alone, away from busy streets and flashing lights. Believed to be a manual to living off grid, Soth introduces us to a style of living, from minimal in the physical to expansive in the mind. A release into a wilderness taken by hermits, monks, survivalists, and runaways. Those who seek solitude whether to expand on a spiritual path or to escape people in general. Run away with Alec Soth.
When I first seen, the Broken Manual series, I felt at home. The comfort of being in the woods, alone, personal belongings minimized. This series took me back to the past, my childhood. Growing up, my family was poor, we lived in the woods, and for a short period of time sheets were used for walls until my father could replace them with plywood. Everything in his photos brought me back to that section of the woods. This was not a bad reminiscing, this was comfort, and safety. I believed Soth was trying to represent solitude. A human alone with no interpretation of who they are, a person with out labels. There is a silence, an undisturbed escape from an overcomplicated world. You can see this in the pictures of lone figures in wide wooded areas. A helmet made solid to keep the outside world out. The drawing of a person with the face shot out, removing the interpretation by features of who they could be.
My favorite image is titled Sidney’s tomatoes. This is not the type of image I would normally gravitate towards, yet the items on the table and its surrounding, all play a part in the story that is viewed in my mind. Beans, tomatoes, bread, these were major staples in my upbringing. The forks and spoons even look like they contain the same patterns of the kind from my childhood. The table used, and bruised, yet not near its death. The overgrowth surrounding the table, crawling with bugs and ticks, forcing the bright red to emerge to the forefront. The leaves, dead, fallen to the table top, another part of nature trying to take over. Beauty comes from objects that are in daily use, to the owner, they are survival.
Below are links I used to get an insight on what Soth’s Broken Manual series is about. I have also given Alec’s web page where the photos were used from.