Top photo: Fifi Chachnil; bottom photo: Cristina.
It was one thing for Alec Soth, at a relatively early point in his career, to be admitted to the Magnum Photos cooperative. Then the legendary agency followed with another invitation, asking the St. Paul-based photographer to produce its third annual fashion magazine. Soth, whose energy seems as boundless as the opportunities presented to him, jumped at the chance.
Production of the 190-page “book,” as they say in the biz, was apparently something of a scramble. Soth was shooting the couture shows in Paris last January as a casting agent signed up Minnesotans for photo shoots in February. (Most are unknowns, but ex-stripper-cum-memoirist-cum-screenwriter Diablo Cody appears in an evening gown and Frye boots). The result, Paris Minnesota, was published last month. As the title indicates, quintessentially Parisian images, such as this one of lingerie designer Fifi Chachnil, fill the first half; their sense of sophistication and history plays off the youthful awkwardness on display in the following Minnesota section, as with Cristina, whose vintage wolf-and-moon sweatshirt is a nod to our own sartorial traditions.
As with any fashion magazine, the advertisements—also produced by Soth—are as alluring as the editorial. The photographer is as subversive in his promotion of luxury brands as he is straightforward with his fashion portraits. Each ad shows a gorgeous, expansive, and wild landscape that includes a virtually hidden object of desire—a watch, a perfume bottle, a handbag. The viewer can’t resist the game: scrutinizing nature to find that bit of top-shelf culture.