New York

Alec Soth

Gagosian Gallery (21)

Like many contemporary photographers who have rediscovered the value of the road trip as a route to vernacular culture, Alec Soth encounters out-of-the-way places and people and pushes past documentary investigation into lurid hyperrealism. His new series, “NIAGARA,” 2005, demonstrates not only a knack for convincing strangers to reveal themselves, but also a penchant for channeling personal experience into passive-aggressive pictorial sensationalism. We might empathize with his subjects, but at the same time we can’t stop staring at their naked bodies and impoverished surroundings. This spectacle, tinged as it is with clichés of misery and bliss, seems almost to parody romantic love, and the overall effect is prurient in a way that Walker Evans, Robert Frank, and Stephen Shore—all photographers with whom Soth is routinely compared—never are.

Using a large-format camera that captures every

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