From Here to There: Alec Soth’s America

From Here to There: Alec Soth’s America

Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2010


Project brief: This catalogue accompanies the exhibition Alec Soth: From Here to There, the first career retrospective of photographer Alec Soth. Known for offbeat portraits of the American fringes, the artist asked for something different than the typical photo book or contemporary-art catalogue, specifically something friendly, honest and accessible, emphasizing his humor and quirkiness. Another concern was differentiating this book from previous Alec Soth catalogues, which were mostly traditional photography books with tipped-on photos on cloth-bound covers.

Approach: During our typographic research we came across a DIY, simple-living magazine called The Mother Earth News, which we referenced for the general layout of the cover. Filling in the magazine’s DIY how-to ads with Soth-related content, we created a cover that also acts as a cryptic table of contents, introducing the reader to the variety of Soth’s subject matter and giving an immediate impression of his perspective on America. In another attempt at making the book accessible, and as a nod to the fact that Soth is both a fine artist and a freelance commercial photographer, we printed the artist’s studio address, email address and phone number on the cover, for better or worse. The cover is cloth-bound, featuring four colors of foil stamps. The interior features excerpts from Soth’s popular blog, screen-printed on red paper, and an artist’s book embedded in the inside back cover.

Effectiveness: The artist wanted a book that would seduce someone into picking it up in the context of a bookstore, which hopefully this does. One reason we consider it successful at the Walker is because it strikes an interesting balance between humor and sincerity, which can be tricky when dealing with contemporary art. It is also successful in breaking out of the photography-book mold. It has received significant press in photography circles, with most of the commentary focusing on the aggressive design and how it accurately reflects Soth’s ever-changing relationship with the form of the book while the content provides new insights into his early work and his process.

Juror Notes

It combines elements of a book cover, contents page, back cover, spine and business card in four-colored stamping on cloth. An intriguing and beguiling approach to an art catalogue.

Collections: 50 Books | 50 Covers of 2010
Repository: Denver Art Museum
Discipline: Book design
Format: Book, Book cover


Design firm
Walker Art Center
Emmet Byrne