A Case of Mistaken Identities: Vincent J. Musi, Sally Mann, Alec Soth

For three artists at this year’s Festival, photographic work is deeply influenced by what just might be their alternate identities: 

Vince Musi, comedian with a heart of gold

Describing the trials and tribulations of his attempts at taking portraits of animals, Musi joked, “I was going to be the Annie Leibowitz of animal photography.”

For his talk at this year’s Festival, he spoke with impeccable comedic timing about a series of “high school portraits” of sheep; the ordeals of photographing Speedbump the prairie dog, who helped Vince find his “inner Dr. Dolittle;” and sundry mishaps with bonobos, elephants, and rats while shooting. But throughout, Musi tempered humor with empathy and a deep respect for the animals and people who feature in these series of photographs, reflecting at one point, “I’m curious. I like making photographs that are bigger than me.”

Sally Mann, writer

Mann’s ease with words is evident in the way she crafted the words for her book, Hold Still. She read these very phrases onstage with accompanying slides of her images alongside photos from her youth. “I’d been a near-feral child. My father called me Jaybird, because I was that naked.” The words were poetry of the ramshackle and the kudzu-covered, casting the same spell as her photographs.

Alec Soth, explorer

“Distance is a key element of my work,” according to Soth. Navigating the uncharted territories of his own photography as well as the personal lives of strangers around the world, Soth traced his portfolio along maps of winding back roads using as his compass influences from John Cage to earthworks sculptors. Constantly experimenting, his career has wandered far and wide. “One of the great things about living in Minnesota and being unknown was that I could just shift and try new things.” Even his presentation was more exploration than narration, a probing inquest demonstrating his newspaperman-like knack for research and an avant-gardist’s sense of improvisation and chance. “This is me working toward a philosophy.” 

Book Signing